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History > 2005 > USA > Natural disasters > Hurricane Katrina (II)

 

12 September - 30 November 2005

 

 

 

 

Chris Britt

Comment cartoon

Springfield, IL

The State Journal-Register

Cagle

31.8.2005

http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/britt.asp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busiest Hurricane Season on Record Ends

 

November 30, 2005
The New York Times
By JENNIFER BAYOT

 

The busiest hurricane season on record ends today with 26 named storms, including a tropical system that formed on Tuesday over the central Atlantic.

At 11 a.m., the center of Tropical Storm Epsilon was about 650 miles east of Bermuda and moving closer at a rate of 9 miles per hour. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it to stay well off the coast, though it will continue sending heavy surf and rough waves around the island as it rakes the ocean with tropical-storm-force winds 225 miles from its center.

The storm's maximum sustained winds have already slowed considerably, though, to about 65 m.p.h. from 250 m.p.h. on Tuesday. The storm should gradually weaken starting on Thursday and slowly turn north, allowing it to dissipate in the ocean.

That forecasters would be tracking yet another named storm on Nov. 30 is a fitting end to the most active hurricane season logged in the record books.

"This hurricane season shattered records that have stood for decades-most named storms, most hurricanes and most Category 5 storms," the undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, retired Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., said in a statement issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Arguably, it was the most devastating hurricane season the country has experienced in modern times."

But NOAA, which operates the National Weather Service, also warned that the busy season was part of "a trend likely to continue for years to come," extending an active hurricane cycle that began in 1995. The increase in the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes can span multiple decades, NOAA said, stimulated by low wind shear and warmer-than-average surface temperatures in the Atlantic Basin, among other factors.

"I'd like to foretell that next year will be calmer, but I can't," Admiral Lautenbacher said. "Historical trends say the atmosphere patterns and water temperatures are likely to force another active season upon us."

Of the 26 named storms that have formed since June 1, half have been hurricanes, and more than half of those were major hurricanes, with a rating of Category 3 or higher, according to data posted on NOAA's Web site, www.noaa.gov. The parade of strong storms even exhausted the list of names reserved for the season, leading to the use of the Greek alphabet after Hurricane Wilma struck.

"The Atlantic Basin produced the equivalent of more than two entire hurricane seasons over the course of one," the director of the National Weather Service, retired Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson of the Air Force, said.

"It's important to recognize that with a greater number of hurricanes comes increasing odds of one striking land," he said.

This season the United States felt the direct impact of five hurricanes - Dennis, Katrina, Ophelia, Rita and Wilma - as well as Tropical Storms Arlene, Cindy and Tammy.

Katrina will stand out in memory as the storm that submerged New Orleans and devastated much of the Gulf Coast. Three months after Katrina made landfall, hundreds of thousands of evacuees remain displaced, and the death toll from the storm has risen to 1,315.

Busiest Hurricane Season on Record Ends,
NYT,
30.11.2005,
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/30/national/30cnd-epsi.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Bruce Chambers,

Orange County (Calif.) Register

from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/14/12516/3649 le 11.11.2005

 

primary source:

http://www.ocregister.com/newsimages/news/2005/09/14rescue.a1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind an iconic photo,

one family's tale of grief

 

Posted
11/11/2005
12:09 AM
USA TODAY
By Jill Lawrence

 

BATON ROUGE — When she saw the picture in the newspaper, she couldn't speak. There was her front porch, bare of the hanging spider plants she had taken down for the storm. And there in the arms of a soldier lay her husband, emaciated and unconscious, hooked up to oxygen and fluids.

It was 17 days after she had kissed him goodbye, 16 days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, 15 days after the floodwaters rose to fill the bowl that is New Orleans.

Weeks later, remembering her first sight of the photograph, Lillian Hollingsworth blinks back the tears that she could not stop then. "I just held the paper and looked at it for a while," she says, and adds, barely audibly, "I was hoping they had rescued him."

They had tried. But Edgar Hollingsworth, 74, died two days after he was found.

By then the photograph, taken by Bruce Chambers of The Orange County (Calif.) Register, had been on the front pages of more than 20 newspapers. And it had become a symbol of all that went so terribly wrong in the wake of Katrina.

Yet the story behind the photo is richer, more complicated and more painful than that. It is the story of one family and thousands of others, one ordeal that reflects what tens of thousands endured.

It is the story of a stubborn man who was proud of his home and his Army service, and the loved ones who now find themselves in tragic straits all too common in Katrina's wake: bereaved, homeless and jobless, separated from each other, facing empty days and uncertain futures.

Lillian Hollingsworth, 67, sits in a stark little garden apartment 75 miles from home, in a city in which she knows no one but her son. It is furnished with a card table and chairs, a TV, two outdoor chaises and a couple of air mattresses. "One day everything can be fine," she says in the gentle voice of a Southern lady. "The next day you have nothing."

 

A fateful decision

Lillian and Edgar Hollingsworth lived a modest version of the American Dream.

She was a secretary, and he worked at an A&P warehouse. They had a son, Wesley, and in 1974 bought a one-story "side-by-side" house in the Broadmoor neighborhood. Edgar kept it clean and in good repair; Lillian had planted gardens of roses, geraniums, poinsettias and periwinkle.

And she decorated. She redid the walls. She bought burgundy and gold wall borders to match her curtains. "I'd fixed up my house so pretty," she says. "My house was paid for. So I was just going to relax and enjoy my retirement."

Like many city residents, the Hollingsworths did not drive much outside town. Their 1992 Chevy Corsica "wasn't in good enough shape to take it on the highway," Lillian says. So when Mayor Ray Nagin advised his constituents to evacuate, she reserved a van with a rental car company. She wrote down her confirmation number, told her husband the plan and packed a suitcase with his clothes.

On Sunday morning, Aug. 28, she went to the airport to get the van, only to be told that there were no vehicles available.

"I was really upset, and I was really scared," she says. "The storm was coming, and they wanted everybody out of the city."

Families across New Orleans were scrambling to come up with plans. The Hollingsworths decided to take refuge with relatives who had second floors. Wesley's two sons would go to an aunt's house with their mother, his ex-wife. Lillian and Edgar would go to Wesley's second-floor apartment in the Mid City neighborhood, less than 3 miles away.

But Edgar refused to go.

His grandsons, ages 16 and 21, begged him to leave. So did his wife, son and former daughter-in-law. "If the storm comes, we're not going to be able to get back to you for a couple of days," Lillian warned.

"Don't worry about me," he said. "When I was in the Army I went a whole month without eating."

He could not see the sense in leaving for another flood-prone neighborhood nearby. "I'll be just as safe here as I would at Wesley's house," he said. "The storm's not going to hit. It's going to go around, the way all the others did."

Wesley, 48, considered forcing his father into the car. "It was such a nerve-racking situation," he says. "But I had never angered him to that point or tried to make him do something he didn't want to do, so I wasn't about to do it at that age."

Looking back on that conversation, Lillian chokes up.

"All of a sudden he got real stubborn," she says. "If he says he's going to do something, he's going to do it. And if he tells you he's not going to do it, he's not going to do it. And you might as well just leave him alone, because he's not going to do it."

She told her neighbors across the street that Edgar was staying behind, but she made few other preparations. She didn't put her pictures in high places. She didn't take any valuables with her. She packed one change of clothing and assumed she'd be back in a day or two. She gave her husband a kiss and left.

At that moment, the Hollingsworths joined a group that eventually numbered in the tens of thousands: families divided by Katrina.

 

A Katrina odyssey

The next day, the storm came and the waters rose. Wesley, his mother and his girlfriend stayed dry in Wesley's second-floor apartment, even as water lapped at the rooflines of single-story houses across the street. But they didn't feel safe. "We were just lucky for the time being. But we didn't know when our luck was going to run out," Wesley says.

From the moment the storm ended, they started trying to make contact with Edgar. But they couldn't get back to the house, and "the phones were all out," Lillian recalls tearfully. "It was horrible."

So they waited, Wesley says, and they wondered: "What was he doing? What was he thinking? Was he all right?"

The food and water at Wesley's apartment ran out Wednesday. Rescuers came by in boats and said they'd return, but they never did.

On Thursday, a neighbor floated by on a flatboat and said he'd be back for them. He kept his promise.

"I told him he was my angel," Lillian says.

"He sure was," says Wesley. "I really wish I knew his name."

Late Thursday afternoon, they arrived at a staging area at Interstate 10 and Causeway Boulevard. They expected to find buses ready to take them to shelter. Instead, they found thousands of people and no buses.

The Hollingsworths waited all night and through most of the next day in the heat and chaos. A few buses would arrive every few hours. National Guard soldiers tried to coordinate boarding, but the crowds were too desperate. "Everybody had one thing in mind — getting out of there and getting on the bus," Wesley says.

On Friday afternoon, they finally boarded a bus so crowded that Lillian had to sit on the floor until a young woman offered her seat. They did not know where they were headed. "I just really didn't care," Lillian says. "I was very confused. I just had given up. I had stayed out for so long in the hot sun, and (I was) hungry. I just wanted to sit down. I just wanted to get where it was cool."

The bus took them 120 miles to Morganza, northwest of Baton Rouge, only to find the shelter there full. But along the way, Lillian had seen a highway sign for New Roads — home of her nephew. Shelter workers in Morganza gave them food, and a young woman drove them the 10 miles to New Roads.

"I just couldn't go any farther," Lillian says.

 

A belated rescue

When they reached a phone in New Roads, the Hollingsworths called the Red Cross to try to locate Edgar. They called an emergency number announced on a radio station. They called a number crawling along the TV screen. But they didn't hear back from anyone.

The Broadmoor area, meanwhile, was sitting in more than 6 feet of water. Boats went by, but searchers couldn't go door to door until the neighborhood was pumped out nearly two weeks after the storm.

"It was terrible," Lillian says of the waiting. "Sometimes I would think the worst. And then some days I would think the best. I was praying that somebody had rescued him."

When search-and-rescue teams finally went in, they were told to knock on doors, listen for a response, help those who needed it, call for body removal if necessary. They were told not to force entry.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Capt. Bruce Gaffney led a National Guard unit from San Diego through the Hollingsworths' neighborhood. It reeked of mold and sewage.

Gaffney, 48, says markings on their door, including an "X" and a zero, showed a team had checked the house and concluded no one was inside. Another mark — "SPCA" — showed the house had been checked for animals, he says.

That made his team the third "set of eyes" on the house.

The wrought-iron security gate at the front door was locked, but the door was cracked open a few inches. Sgt. Jeremy Ridgeway spotted part of a leg and called to Lt. Frederick Fell, the platoon leader.

The person appeared dead, but Fell wasn't sure. The leg, he told his colleagues, looked "a little fleshy." Despite the order not to breach homes, he says, "I didn't think twice about going inside. It was what needed to be done."

Spc. Alfredo Ramos, a 6-foot, 300-pound former Navy medic, wrenched the security gate open. Then Ridgeway, Ramos and Spc. Eric Brady made their way through the wreckage and 2 feet of standing water in the house.

There was no food or drinking water in sight. The living room couch was tipped over, its back flat on the floor.

Edgar Hollingsworth had been of normal weight and in good health for his age. Now he lay unclothed and almost skeletal on that up-ended couch, a coffee table resting against his head, his elbow pressed against his rib cage. The guardsmen called to Fell that authorities needed to pick up a body. Thirty seconds elapsed, and then Hollingsworth gasped for air.

The three men leapt backward. "We had never been so scared," says Ramos, 22. "It was like something out of a movie."

Suddenly the tempo was frenzied. A soldier raced more than two blocks to a supply truck to get a medical kit. Gaffney rushed to the scene from a block away. So did California Task Force 5, an Orange County urban search-and-rescue unit working nearby.

They found Hollingsworth lying on a stretcher on the street.

"You could see his heart beating through his chest, he was so emaciated," says Peter Czuleger, 55, an emergency room doctor with the Orange County team. "One of the guardsmen said, 'He looks like he has AIDS.' I said, no, this is what someone looks like who has not had food or water for 10 days."

Hollingsworth was unresponsive and had two pressure wounds — on his head from the coffee table and on his rib cage from his elbow. The wounds indicated that he had been in exactly the same position for at least three days.

"I thought he would not have made it another 24 hours in that house," Czuleger says. "He would surely have died that evening."

Czuleger started an IV in a shrunken vein under Hollingsworth's collarbone. Aided by task force members, Ramos lifted him into an ambulance, and he was taken to Ochsner Clinic, one of the few local hospitals still operating.

Nobody knew who he was. But Gaffney and Fell went back to the house later. They found Edgar's name on the back of a picture on the wall, and Lillian's name on some mail.

 

An iconic photo

The day after the rescue, Lillian and Wesley Hollingsworth heard from a relative in Baker, La. Buy the newspaper, she told them.

Lillian stared in shock at the picture of her husband on the front page of The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. They called the newspaper and got the California photographer's name and phone number. He told them where Edgar had been taken.

By that night they were on the phone with the doctor at the hospital. Edgar was unconscious and on life support, the doctor said, and he would keep him alive until they arrived. They rented a car the next day, drove the 120 miles to New Orleans and sat with him for 20 minutes before he died.

The family was devastated but grateful. "I was able to see him again without (him) being in a casket," Lillian says.

Edgar Hollingsworth had spent three years in the Army, stateside and in Germany. When his National Guard rescuers learned he was a veteran, they arranged for a memorial fund and a military funeral. Ramos, Brady and Ridgeway were pallbearers. The military presence comforted Lillian Hollingsworth.

"He was proud to have been a soldier," she says of her husband. "He always talked about the Army. I just feel that it worked out the way he would have wanted it to."

Later, Lillian would say she wished the city had forcibly removed people from their homes after the storm.

Later, Richard Ventura, logistics manager of California Task Force 5, would talk about the frustration and waste of searching a huge urban area without going into houses — and then having to search again, and again, to find those left behind. "We want to do the right job the first time," he says.

Later, Bruce Gaffney would speculate about Edgar's solitary last days, the terror of not knowing "where the water's going to stop" or when the rescuers would come. He would say the photograph sums up the larger tragedy of Katrina.

"Everyone failed the people," Gaffney says. "The soldiers and the poor people had to bear the brunt of everybody else's failures."

The photograph carried different meanings for others. Ventura looked at it and saw racial harmony: a black man cared for by a Hispanic man assisted by two whites. Fell saw the Katrina relief response in microcosm: paramedics, guardsmen, devastation and a casualty.

Ramos himself, at the center of the photograph with an intense expression on his face, fixed on the 15-day gap between the storm and the rescue. The picture, he says, "shows the will to survive. I know he didn't want to die there."

 

An uncertain future

Lillian Hollingsworth is living at the Bon Carre apartments in Baton Rouge with her son month to month, on a $500 lease.

Relatives lent them money to buy clothes for Edgar's funeral. Money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has gone for furniture and rent.

The pair has made several brief visits to her house in New Orleans. They snapped pictures: everything wet, moldy, broken and topsy-turvy. "It looked like a tornado was inside of the house," Wesley says.

Wesley's girlfriend has returned to New Orleans and her job as a security guard. He was a city bus driver with only eight years until retirement. He is still waiting for news of his job.

His mother is waiting for ... she doesn't know what.

"I had had some flood insurance. But that's not enough to tear down and rebuild another house," she says. "I'm too old to get in debt. I have no idea what I'm going to do."

Ultimately, Wesley's fate will decide hers.

"Sometimes I say I want to go back, and sometimes I don't," she says. "But if my son goes back, well, I'm getting on in years, and I would like to be close by him so I have somebody to look after me."

Lillian Hollingsworth has a cousin in Baton Rouge, but she doesn't know where he lives.

There's nowhere to walk near her apartment, in a desolate part of town. She yearns for her grandsons. They've lived next door to her all their lives. Now they are in Dallas, where a bus took them after the storm.

"Every day I talk to them," she says. "They've adjusted to Dallas, but they like New Orleans. They want to come back."

Her family pictures — her husband in better days, the baby pictures and school pictures of her son and his sons — are stained with water and mud.

But she does have one undamaged photograph of her grandchildren, from Wesley's apartment. It's on her windowsill here, along with four small houseplants.

Behind an iconic photo, one family's tale of grief, UT, 11.11.2005,
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-11-10-hollingsworth-katrina_x.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eye of the storm . . .

King sees for herself

the destruction in New Orleans’ ninth district.

 

Photograph: Ted Soqui/Corbis

 

Right crop by Anglonautes.

 

An American journey

Hurricane Katrina not only destroyed New Orleans,

but also laid bare the ugly truth about America's racial divide.

Former MP Oona King set out

on a personal journey through the southern states

to see what has changed

since her black father was forced to flee the US

The Guardian        G2        pp. 14-15

Tuesday October 18, 2005

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/oct/18/
usa.world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51 New Orleans police employees fired

 

Posted 10/28/2005 6:32 PM
Updated 10/28/2005 10:54 PM
USA Today > AP

 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Fifty-one members of the New Orleans Police Department — 45 officers and six civilian employees — were fired Friday for abandoning their posts before or after Hurricane Katrina.
"They were terminated due to them abandoning the department prior to the storm," acting superintendent Warren Riley said. "They either left before the hurricane or 10 to 12 days after the storm and we have never heard from them."

Police were unable to account for 240 officers on the 1,450-member force following Katrina. The force has been investigating them to see if they left their posts during the storm.

The mass firing was the first action taken against the missing officers. Another 15 officers resigned when placed under investigation for abandonment.

"This isn't representative of our department," Riley said. "We had a lot of heroes that stepped up after the storm."

Another 45 officers resigned from the force after the Aug. 29 storm. The resignations were for personal reasons ranging from relocation to new employment, Riley said.

The fired officers do not have the right to appeal, Riley said.

"The regulation says that if you leave the job for a period of 14 days without communication you can be terminated," Riley said. "I don't think they have the right to a civil service appeal."

Lt. David Benelli, president of the New Orleans police union, said he had no sympathy for those who abandoned their post.

"The worst thing you can call a police officer is a deserter," Benelli said.

None of the officers had contacted the union about fighting the dismissals, he said.

Two former New Orleans police officers and a New Orleans firefighter were rejected for jobs in the Dallas Police Department because of allegations they deserted their jobs during Hurricane Katrina.

"When you are ready and take an oath of office and you do not fulfill that office, that's an issue for us and it should be an issue for law enforcement in general," Dallas Deputy Chief Floyd Simpson said Thursday.

Hearings for the New Orleans officers that remain under investigation for abandonment will begin Nov. 8 and last four to six months, Riley said.

The department is also investigating the beating of a man during his arrest and the assault on an Associated Press television producer.

"It's still ongoing, but we hope to have a conclusion within a few weeks," Riley said.

    51 New Orleans police employees fired, USA Today > AP, 28.10.2005,
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-10-28-copsfired_x.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Over 200 Katrina deaths

focus of Louisiana probe

 

Tue Oct 25, 2005
10:42 PM ET
Reuters
By Kevin Krolicki

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The deaths of over 200 patients at Louisiana nursing homes and hospitals during and just after Hurricane Katrina are being examined for evidence of crimes ranging from neglect to mercy killing, the state prosecutor's office said on Tuesday.

The Louisiana Attorney General's office is examining allegations ranging from abandonment of patients to claims that some were euthanized in the chaotic aftermath of the storm, Kris Wartelle, a spokeswoman said.

"In some places, they drowned. In some places, they died because there was no air conditioning. In other cases, we've heard of possible euthanasia," she said.

A team of 28 investigators and seven state prosecutors is investigating the deaths, linked to six hospitals and 13 nursing homes in Louisiana, she said.

Prosecutors have not said how many full-scale criminal investigations were underway, although Wartelle said there were several. In those cases, prosecutors have collected autopsy results, interviewed witnesses and looked at other evidence.

But Wartelle said some claims of abandonment of patients or other misconduct by medical personnel and nursing home staff would likely prove to be unsubstantiated. "Not all of these are going to be arrest-worthy or case-worthy," she said. "Some of them will turn out to be nothing."

One complicating factor has been that witnesses to many of the events in question have been scattered across the region and the United States, Wartelle said.

The only arrests related to Katrina came last month when a couple who own a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish were charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of 34 people.

Those elderly patients were left at the facility and died when it filled with an estimated seven feet of flood water in the wake of the August 29 storm.

The death of a Thelma Wall, a 90-year-old woman who had been living at the Huntington Place Senior Community in Chalmette, Louisiana, is also being examined by prosecutors.

Wall died during an evacuation the day before the storm hit, aboard a school bus where she went without medical care, members of her family told The Times-Picayune newspaper, which first reported the case.

A representative for Huntington could not be reached for comment.

At a neighborhood meeting on Tuesday in New Orleans, TroyLynne Perrault said her family was still waiting for coroners to identify the body of her grandmother, who died at the city's Lafon Nursing Home.

Perrault said her family had not heard from state investigators although two of her aunts had given DNA samples at the request of the coroner's office.

She said the two-month delay in burying her grandmother was one of the most difficult things her family has had to confront after the hurricane. "Right now we're just waiting to identify the body," she said.

    Over 200 Katrina deaths focus of Louisiana probe, R, 25.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-10-26T024227Z_01_HO605337_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES-CRIMES.xml

 

 

 

 

 

The Levees

Engineers Point to Flaws

in Flood Walls' Design

as Probable Cause of Collapse


October 24, 2005
The New York Times
By CHRISTOPHER DREW
and JOHN SCHWARTZ

 

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 23 - When the Army Corps of Engineers started to design a flood wall on the 17th Street Canal here in the early 1980's, deep probes found what geologists viewed as a potentially weak layer of peat soil about 15 feet below sea level in the area where the wall collapsed during Hurricane Katrina.

Yet in building the wall, corps officials acknowledge, they did not drive the steel pilings - the main anchors for the structure - any deeper than 17 feet.

Several outside engineers who have examined the designs say the decision not to hammer the pilings deeper and into firmer ground left the support for the flood wall dangerously dependent on soil that could easily have given way under the immense pressure from floodwaters.

And members of a team of experts from the National Science Foundation say it now seems that this simple failure probably led to the collapse of the walls on both the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, which flooded many residential neighborhoods and surrounded the Superdome with several feet of water.

Corps officials say it is possible their engineers made a mistake, and in rebuilding the broken sections they are planning to hammer the new pilings three to four times as deep. They also say their original design team may have seen other data suggesting that the soil was stronger, or taken measures to compensate for any weakness in it.

Corps investigators say they have just started going through 235 boxes of the agency's records that could shed more light on why the engineers believed the design was safe. And some outside investigators caution that they would like to examine more of the records before deciding what caused the break.

Herbert J. Roussel Jr., a consulting engineer who worked for the contractor that built the flood walls to the corps's design, said the peat layer seemed to extend 15 feet to 20 feet below sea level where the breach occurred on the 17th Street Canal. He said that if the original pilings "had gone through the peat layer, I don't think we would have had a problem."

He added that driving the pilings just 10 feet deeper might have prevented the collapse.

Robert G. Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has examined the soil data for the National Science Foundation, said the decision not to drive the piling deeper was "a design flaw."

Dr. Bea said he and others in his group believed it was the most likely reason that the floodwaters broke through, shoving parts of the walls and the earthen levees beneath them as far as 35 feet into nearby neighborhoods.

He also said that even if the strength of the soil initially met the corps's standards, the designers might have underestimated how it would deteriorate to what he called "thick pancake batter" once it got pummeled by the water surging into the canals from Lake Pontchartrain.

Walter Baumy, the chief engineer for the corps's New Orleans district, said, however, that the problem was "a little more complicated than just saying that there's a five-foot-deep layer of peat in there."

"What's probably more important is, How did we account for it in the design?" Mr. Baumy said. "Or did we properly address it?"

He added, "We need to step back and review our design and see if it was done properly at that time."

Peter Nicholson, an engineering professor at the University of Hawaii who heads a review team from the American Society of Civil Engineers, also said it was too early to "say conclusively that the weak soil caused the failure."

Dr. Nicholson said the significance of the depth of the pilings also remained "a question that needs to be answered."

Still, some of the engineers say the new information about the peat soil could also be significant in terms of what the corps will have to do, and how much money it will need to spend, to ensure that the 17th Street and London Avenue flood walls hold up in future storms.

Mr. Roussel said tests of the soil conducted before the walls were built showed that the layer of peat soil stretched under large expanses of the wall on the 17th Street Canal. He said this could mean that instead of just replacing the 400-foot section that broke, the corps might have to tear up much of the three-mile wall and the earthen levee beneath it.

Corps officials have said that if that is the case, they will not be able to complete the repairs before the start of hurricane season next summer. That could also complicate efforts to repopulate the city, making many residents more reluctant to repair or rebuild their houses.

The breaches along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals were part of a broad failure of the hurricane protection system that let floodwaters into 80 percent of the city. Corps officials say huge waves surged over the tops of the levees in the Lower Ninth Ward in eastern New Orleans and scoured out the soil on the other side, causing the levees to collapse.

But the corps now agrees that the floodwaters never rose above the top of the walls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, which suggests that they failed because of flawed design or construction, not just because of the overwhelming force of nature. In addition to the breach on the 17th Street Canal, two sections of the flood wall on the London Avenue Canal gave way.

Much of the public debate since Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm, has centered on whether Congress should have approved billions of dollars to upgrade the city's protection from Category 3 to the highest level, Category 5. But the new data about the soil and the pilings also suggests that the corps might have been able to prevent much of the flooding at a much smaller cost.

Installing deeper pilings "wouldn't have cost a lot of money," Mr. Roussel said.

Mr. Roussel, who is based in Metairie, La., represented the Pittman Construction Company, the contractor that built the concrete flood wall on the 17th Street Canal, in a contract dispute with the corps in the 1990's. The dispute focused on whether weak soils had made it hard to pour the concrete on 12 of the 257 sections of the wall; the corps ended up slightly easing its requirements to allow for the difficulty.

Mr. Roussel said in an interview that he was basing his broader comments on the vulnerability of the walls during the hurricane on the description of the peat layer in a 1981 soil analysis that another firm had prepared for the corps. The existence of that document was first reported by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

The teams from the National Science Foundation and the American Society of Civil Engineers visited the breach sites recently, and they plan to release a preliminary report in early November. Dr. Bea said he would push to include the concerns about the peat layer and the depth of the pilings in the report.

But Dr. Nicholson said he would resist that unless enough evidence emerged to create a clear consensus.

Joseph Wartman, an assistant professor at Drexel University who is on the engineering society's review team, said he would also like to see more of the corps documents.

But Dr. Wartman said his initial reaction was that the length of the pilings seemed "to be on the short side." He also said it was "almost getting to the point that it's academic" whether the fault lay with the peat - a black spongy soil left from old swamps - or soft clay. He said the walls clearly "moved over a layer of soft material."

It is not clear how much of the initial design work was done by corps staff engineers and how much by consulting engineers working for the corps. But Dr. Nicholson and Dr. Wartman said the New Orleans levee designers might have assumed that the soil would have become firmer over time as it was compressed by the weight of the levees above it.

Dr. Nicholson said corps officials also performed strength tests and stability analyses on the soil beneath the flood walls and came up with safety factors that were within their guidelines. But, he said, it is still unclear if the safety margin was adequate, or whether their calculations considered how the levees would handle the flooding in an intense storm like Hurricane Katrina.

Engineers Point to Flaws in Flood Walls' Design as Probable Cause of Collapse, NYT, 24.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/24/national/nationalspecial/24levee.html

 

 

 

 

 

FEMA was unprepared for Katrina,

Senate panel told

 

Thu Oct 20, 2005
4:56 PM ET
Reuters
By Donna Smith

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Federal Emergency Management Agency official who rode out Hurricane Katrina at the New Orleans Superdome told a U.S. Senate panel on Thursday he was horrified at the agency's lack of action during the crisis and was haunted by the suffering he saw.

"I can't get out of my head the visions of children and babies I saw sitting there, helpless, looking at me and hoping I could make a difference... ," Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA public affairs officer, told the panel, reading from an e-mail he wrote at the time.

He said he was the only FEMA official sent to the city ahead of Katrina and called the Superdome the "shelter of last resort that cascaded into the a cesspool of human waste and filth."

He was haunted by the suffering and horrified at FEMA's lack of action at the top when he tried to obtain supplies and inform senior FEMA officials of the seriousness of the situation in New Orleans as the city flooded.

He read to the Senate Homeland Security Committee investigating the government's botched response to Katrina from an e-mail he wrote to a colleague during the crisis about his frustration with top officials.

"The leadership from top down in our agency is unprepared and out of touch," he said. "But while I am horrified at some of the cluelessness and self concern that persists, I try to focus on those that have put their lives on hold to help people that they never met and never will."

Michael Brown, initially praised by President George W. Bush, quit as FEMA director under a hail of criticism over his agency's slow response to the hurricane. Brown at a House of Representatives committee hearing last month blamed local officials and said his biggest mistake was not recognizing soon enough that Louisiana officials were "dysfunctional."

In other e-mail exchanges Bahamonde's expressed his frustration at being told by an aide that Brown, who was managing the storm response from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, needed time to eat dinner because the city's restaurants had just reopened.

"I just ate an MRE (meal ready to eat) and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants," Bahamonde e-mailed a colleague from the Superdome. "Maybe tonight I will have time to move the pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep... ."

Bahamonde also disputed Brown's testimony to a House committee investigating the hurricane that a medical team and other FEMA personnel were in place in New Orleans ahead of the storm. Bahamonde said he was the sole FEMA official to ride out the storm in the Superdome and said he urged the agency to get a medical team there quickly.

FEMA was unprepared for Katrina, Senate panel told, R, 20.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-10-20T205558Z_01_FOR075267_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES-CONGRESS.xml

 

 

 

 

 

The Coroner

For Trumpet-Playing Coroner,

Hurricane Provides Swan Song

 

October 17, 2005
The New York Times
By SHAILA DEWAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 12 - "I went down to St. James Infirmary/Saw my baby there/Stretched out on a long white table/So sweet, so cold, so fair."

If this tune, made famous by Louis Armstrong, happens to be a favorite of your local coroner, then either you are alarmed, or you are from New Orleans.

If your coroner also plays the trumpet, is known as Dr. Jazz, and marches in funeral processions wearing a white suit, then he is Dr. Frank Minyard, a living illustration of the intimate connection between music and death in New Orleans.

Dr. Minyard, who has been the elected coroner of Orleans Parish since 1974, has dealt with capsized riverboats, plane crashes, frequent murders and police brutality investigations. On the slab in his basement morgue, he has seen friends and mayors and people who were both.

Now, he has met his greatest challenge: the hundreds of bodies collected from New Orleans and its neighboring parishes since Hurricane Katrina.

At 76, on the brink of a retirement that was supposed to combine oyster dinners at his favorite restaurants with a simple life on his cattle farm on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Dr. Minyard has found himself living in an R.V. on the grounds of a temporary federal morgue in St. Gabriel, a small town just outside Baton Rouge, grappling with the still-increasing death toll, the bewildering red tape and the urgent calls of bereaved families.

The process of identifying Hurricane Katrina's victims has been criticized as painfully slow, and amid the parceling of blame state officials have accused Dr. Minyard of obstructing the process by declining offers of help despite a staff decimated by displacement and layoffs.

It is criticism he shrugs off, saying in an interview, "If they need someone to point the finger at, that's O.K. with me." Sometimes he views the current challenge as the natural culmination of his life.

"This is something that I was just destined to do," he says.

Other times, he sounds less certain, as on a recent day when he paid a rare visit to his French Quarter apartment. Above the sofa, against the baroque burgundy wallpaper, were photographs of Duke Dejan, Milton Batiste, Danny Barker and other musical mentors, and a blow-up of a snapshot that has become the popular Dr. Jazz souvenir shop poster - and once, during his only contested election, was a campaign sign.

It shows Dr. Minyard circa 1980, standing on the levee in his white suit, playing the trumpet. Of the people on the wall, he is the only one still living.

"God has given me this swan song," he said, "to see if I am - to see if I am up to it."

In the kind of twist that might strike New Orleanians as perfectly natural, their coroner began his medical career as an obstetrician. Before that, he was a tall, blue-eyed pretty boy: a lifeguard in the summers and, once, second runner-up in a Mr. New Orleans bodybuilding contest. During medical school, he said, he spent his summers in New York City giving "nightlife tours."

By the late 1960's, Dr. Minyard had a successful practice, a family, a tennis court and a swimming pool, beside which he was sitting one day when he heard Peggy Lee singing, "Is that all there is?"

"Prior to that I was very selfish, like most young doctors and lawyers and dentists," said Dr. Minyard, who gave up his private medical practice soon after he became coroner. "I was just trying to get the Cadillac and the country club membership."

His pursuit of the coroner's office had nothing to do with the dead and everything to do with Sister Mary David Young, a Catholic educator who ran a breakfast program for poor children and called Dr. Minyard for fund-raising help.

"She told me, 'The mothers of these kids, they're all prostitutes and shoplifters,' " Dr. Minyard recalled. "I said, 'Well Sister, nobody's perfect.' "

But it was worse than that. Some of the women were heroin addicts, and to help them Dr. Minyard and Sister Mary David eventually founded what he says was the city's first methadone clinic. Soon, he wanted to give methadone to addicts in jail, and learned that in Louisiana, whose legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code, the coroner was responsible for the medical care of prisoners. The coroner at the time opposed methadone treatment for inmates, Dr. Minyard said.

The first time Dr. Minyard ran, in 1969, he lost to the incumbent. But four years later, he and a slate of other candidates viewed as reformers - including Harry Connick Sr., the "Singing D.A." - were swept into office. Another of those candidates, Edwin Lombard, now a state appeals court judge, recalled his befuddlement the first time he saw Dr. Minyard campaign: "I said, 'This guy's a nut.' He's walking through the audience blowing the trumpet - off-key, too."

As a child, Dr. Minyard learned to play the trumpet by ear. His mother and grandmother were ragtime piano players. His father was descended, he says, from one of two Minyard brothers who were sprung from the Bastille at the onset of the French Revolution.

"I never did learn how they got into prison," he said. "They were probably thieves and cutthroats." His parents met on a riverboat.

In a city obsessed with heritage and hijinks, this history helps make Dr. Minyard a classic character. "In any other city," he says, "I couldn't be elected dog catcher."

Instead of pursuing a career in music, Dr. Minyard went to medical school at Louisiana State University. He did not pick up a trumpet again until his late 30's, when he was guest on a radio talk show answering medical questions and his mother called to say she was having his old horn refurbished for his 12-year-old son.

His mother was unaware that their conversation was being broadcast, and it led to an invitation for Dr. Minyard to come back and play.

The recital was not a critical success.

"Pete Fountain called in and said, 'If that's music, I'm going to shoot myself because I don't want to be associated with it,' " Dr. Minyard said.

However inexpert his playing, Dr. Minyard became devoted to jazz, and soon he was sitting in with the venerated Olympia Brass Band and hiring musicians as morgue assistants to help them make ends meet. In his first year as coroner, he was arrested while playing in the French Quarter to protest a crackdown on street musicians.

As he likes to tell it, the judge told him to do something constructive with his trumpet, so he started Jazz Roots, an annual concert featuring the city's musical royalty that has raised $800,000 for city charities over the past 30 years. It is advertised on the coroner's Web site, along with a sample of Dr. Minyard's trumpet playing.

"In 31 years I've had nothing but happiness in a job that deals with unhappiness," Dr. Minyard said over a truck-stop lunch near the morgue. He has dined with Fats Domino and played the trumpet for Mike Wallace. Once, on the airport tarmac, Pope John Paul II blessed his trumpet.

But lately, things have been grim. When the flooding began, Dr. Minyard tried to swim to his office, and ended up marooned there four days. The process of identifying Hurricane Katrina's victims may take more than a year to complete. And though his own property and family were largely spared by the storm, the vast majority of Louisiana's 1,035 dead are what he calls "my people."

A few weeks ago, when he had a moment alone, the coroner took out his trumpet and played a tune he had played hundreds of times before. "Do you know what it means," his horn sang, "to miss New Orleans?"

This time, he said, the song made him cry.

For Trumpet-Playing Coroner, Hurricane Provides Swan Song, NYT, 17.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/17/national/nationalspecial/17coroner.html

 

 

 

 

 

Farrakhan wants govt sued

over hurricane response

 

Sat Oct 15, 2005
8:10 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan accused the federal government of "criminal neglect" for its slow response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, during a rally on Saturday marking the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.

Speaking to thousands of African-Americans gathered on the National Mall, he also urged minorities and the poor to work together to improve their lives.

In his speech, the highlight of the daylong event, Farrakhan asked why the government did a better job helping the citizens of Florida last year, and why so few lives were lost, when the state was hit by four major hurricanes.

"I believe that we can charge the government with criminal neglect," he said. "I firmly believe that if the people on those rooftops (in New Orleans) had blond hair and blue eyes and pale skin, something would have been done in a more timely manner. We charge America with criminal neglect," he said from the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

There has been renewed attention on race relations in recent weeks, after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and devastated the lower Ninth Ward, which was largely populated by black and poor residents.

Farrakhan also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security should be sued.

"I think we need to look at a class action (law)suit on behalf of the citizens of New Orleans who have lost everything, and the government is not acting responsibly to give them back what they have lost and return them to their homes," he said.

 

MILLIONS MORE MOVEMENT

This year's event, known as the "Millions More Movement," was a stark contrast to 1995, when only black men were invited to participate to promote black self-reliance and responsibility. On Saturday, women and other minorities were invited, attended and spoke to the crowd.

"For a few years it was good for the men to come out for themselves -- to atone -- but now we need to come together," said Jamillia Lawrence, 35, of Atlantic City.

"This march, particularly, it was for families. It just came from a need. This is what the need is, to have more unity in our families," she said, citing gang violence and black children going astray, with no structure in their families.

Farrakhan, who organized the 1995 event and has made controversial statements in the past, told the crowd that African-Americans should work together to improve their lives.

"The more we are organized, the more we can generate power to change reality. The more we unify, the more power we can generate to change reality," he said.

Farrakhan also urged other minorities and the poor to unite.

"The time has never been more ripe for a strategic relationship between the black, the brown, the Native American and the poor of this nation and the world," he said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate who also addressed the crowd, called for a move away from violence and for millions to fight against poverty, illiteracy and the kind of suffering that befell the poor in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"Don't imitate the violence, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, gay bashing," he told the crowd. "We need ... millions more to build a multiracial coalition, we need not battle alone to fight poverty and greed and war."

The event appeared smaller than the Million Man March, with crowds dispersed between the U.S. Capitol steps across to the grassy Mall. A decade ago, hundreds of thousands stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

    Farrakhan wants govt sued over hurricane response, R, 15.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-10-16T000951Z_01_WRI573199_RTRUKOC_0_US-RIGHTS-MOVEMENT.xml

 

 

 

 

 

The Relief Costs

In Federal Buying Spree

for Hurricane Relief,

Agencies Often Paid Retail

 

October 15, 2005
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LIPTON

 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 - On the federal government's long shopping list for hurricane relief: $223,000 for flip-flops, $153,600 worth of underwear, three golf carts rented for $1,500 a month and flyswatters for $5.28. Oh, and four packs of playing cards bought by the United States Forest Service, for which records list no price but do offer an explanation: "to help morale during Hurricane Rita."

Most of the government's estimated $150 billion bill for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is going for disaster aid checks to thousands of victims and gargantuan contracts for debris removal and housing.

But there is a vast quantity of smaller purchases, made by an army of workers dispatched to the storm region, many carrying government credit cards. It was shopping on an epic scale - $66,632.37 for a single sale at a Wal-Mart store in La Place, La.; $129,568.40 spent in 195 trips to Home Depot outlets by workers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; 3,000 sleeping bags bought from two sporting goods outlets for $60,639.61.

Auditors will take years to assess the propriety of the spending, and its scale is so great that many purchases are unlikely ever to get close scrutiny. A review of financial records provided by FEMA and four other agencies, however, shows that the government often paid retail prices or more even for items bought in large quantities. At least one transaction appears to have been split up to avoid a ceiling of $250,000 on credit card purchases, a limit already increased a hundredfold for Hurricane Katrina from the usual $2,500.

On their face, the records, detailing $19 million worth of federal government purchase-card spending, reveal no pattern of outlandish spending. But there is often no way to tell whether purchases were necessary or whether the items were ever used. The bulging shopping baskets reflect the rush to meet the needs of desperate victims and the fact that other people's money is easy to spend.

Did the Environmental Protection Agency really have to buy CamelBak backpack-style water containers for $2,024 (quantity not given), or could their workers have used ordinary plastic bottles? Why did the Forest Service spend $547 on a "horse trough"? (An agency spokesman could not say, but a salesman at Port Allen Hardware in Louisiana says it was used as a "giant ice chest" to keep drinks cool.) What about $89.37 for treatment of a toothache for an emergency worker at a mobilization center in Marietta, Ga.?

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, questioned whether agencies were justified in buying so many items for full price in stores rather than seeking discounts from manufacturers. At Office Depot stores, for instance, FEMA employees put $382,162 for hurricane relief on government credit cards.

"I do understand that time is of the essence, but you can still buy very quickly without going to Best Buy," she said.

Several members of Congress say they will closely scrutinize transactions using "purchase cards," government-paid credit cards subject to past abuse.

"If something is wrong, it is like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen," Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Finance Committee, said. "But we are still going to pursue it. I want to know what they bought with the money."

Behind curious looking expenditures are entries tales that show how far the Hurricane Katrina buying departed from standard government practices.

For example, when FEMA paid $177,025 to the Banita Creek Hall, a banquet center in Nacogdoches, Tex., it was buying 18 flat-bottom motorboats from Mike Love, a lawyer in Lufkin, Tex., who owns a boat-hauling company.

Mr. Love said he got a call late one Saturday night asking him if he could quickly find boats to help collect bodies or survivors in flooded New Orleans. He scrambled to round up the boats from local dealers and asked a relative who owns the banquet hall to process the transaction with his credit card machine.

At nearly $10,000 apiece, including trailers and other options, the boats may have been costlier than if they had been bought with competitive bids. But that was not an option, Mr. Love said.

"They had bodies that were rotting and people who needed food," he said. "I was thinking outside this box on how to make this deal happen, fast."

Despite the increased purchase-card ceiling, agencies sometimes appear to have evaded it. For instance, on Sept. 14, FEMA spent $271,838 on medical supplies from an Ohio company, Bound Tree Medical. But the purchases were divided into three equal transactions of $90,612, staying under the purchase-card cap.

Larry Orluskie, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said that if the rules were indeed bent, it might have been justified by the urgent need for medical gear.

"I can't imagine anyone criticizing the contract officer who was constructive and made the system work to save lives," Mr. Orluskie said.

Some eye-catching line items turn out to be understandable when details are known. The flip-flops and underwear were for evacuees, many of whom fled without extra clothing and used public showers for weeks, FEMA says, and Jockey International says it provided the underwear at or under the company's cost. It seems odd that Steve's Christmas Trees, a California company, got nearly $2 million from FEMA for "hurricane relief" - but a call reveals that the company is a well-established supplier of water trucks, portable showers and portable laundry units.

The $66,000 Wal-Mart bill, the company says, was for a truckload of goods ordered directly from the retailer's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., but attributed to the La Place store for accounting purposes. A television set and a sofa on the Forest Service list were for out-of-town firefighters to rest between grueling runs, said Daniel Jiron, a spokesman for the agency.

The cost of operating in places that lacked basic necessities, though, was often high. A portable shower unit with 24 shower heads, supported by water trucks and a six-member team to keep it open 24 hours a day, costs $8,000 to $10,000 a day. When the Maritime Administration, part of the Department of Transportation, lost its New Orleans office to Hurricane Katrina, it spent more than $40,000 to equip from scratch a replacement office in Port Arthur, Tex.

The records suggest that the government has not skimped. It paid retail prices for huge quantities of everything from ink cartridges to Gatorade. Under a competitive contract with a Virginia supplier, FEMA paid $3,125 each for the latest tablet laptop computers, which allow the user to write text on a touch-sensitive screen, specially "ruggedized" for use in rough outdoor settings.

It paid an Alabama dealer about $40,000 apiece to deliver 50 Ford F-350 pickup trucks - a reasonable price, according to other dealers, because the agency also asked for dual rear wheels, larger cabs, and power windows and locks.

Agency representatives insist that purchases are reviewed before they are made. Mr. Jiron of the Forest Service said "buying teams" deployed along with "incident management teams" approved or rejected proposed purchases, even modest ones, on the spot.

Mr. Orluskie, of the Homeland Security Department, said that far from giving out purchase cards frivolously, FEMA limited them to just 20 employees, who have so far charged about $12 million in hurricane-related expenses.

Purchase cards have gained a somewhat legendary status among government watchdogs for the variety of improper charges uncovered by auditors in the past: $400 Coach briefcases, a mounted deer head, a dog, $250 Louis Vuitton folios, a $300 Bose headset, as well as cigars, wine, leather bomber jackets, Victoria's Secret clothing, Oakley sunglasses, even $630 for escort services.

Mr. Orluskie said the employees in his department, including those at FEMA, knew there would be many different players looking over their purchases.

"If you buy 500 TV's, you better be able to explain what you are doing with them," he said. "Because tomorrow, your purchase is going to be scrutinized."

 

Ron Nixon contributed reporting for this article.

In Federal Buying Spree for Hurricane Relief, Agencies Often Paid Retail, NYT, 15.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/15/national/nationalspecial/15spend.html

 

 

 

 

 


The Dead

Chief of Louisiana Morgue

Says Pace of Work There

Is Accelerating

 

October 15, 2005
The New York Times
By SHAILA DEWAN

 

ST. GABRIEL, La., Oct. 14 - The number of bodies that the central morgue has released to funeral homes since Hurricane Katrina has nearly doubled in the last week, the Louisiana emergency medical director said Friday while shepherding reporters on a tour of the morgue.

The tour, offered in an effort to make the public aware of the complexities involved in making identifications, followed weeks of criticism of what many families have called a painfully slow process.

At a news briefing last week, Dr. Louis Cataldie, the emergency medical director, said that slightly more than 70 bodies had been released. On Friday, he said that 132 had been released and that 128 more were ready. The families of all but 10 of those 128 victims have been contacted, Dr. Cataldie said.

So far, 1,035 bodies have been recovered in Louisiana. Of those, fewer than 200 have been handled by local coroners, while 842 have been brought to the central morgue, set up in this small town outside Baton Rouge by the regional Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a unit of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 350 of those 842 remain unidentified, and an additional 200 await autopsy.

As of Wednesday evening, more than 2,300 lengthy "victim information profiles" had been completed by callers to the Find Family Call Center, created by FEMA and the state to field queries from those who fear that a loved one died. The center has also collected samples of the families' DNA and dental records of those who may have perished.

Operations at the morgue were halted for Friday's tour. As he took reporters through various stations - decontamination, assessment, fingerprinting, dental X-rays, body X-rays, autopsy and forensic anthropology, the photographing of personal effects, a DNA station - Dr. Cataldie spoke of a variety of things that would aid in identifying a body, among them clothing sizes of missing people and photographs of their smile, which can be used to compare teeth even when serious decomposition has already occurred.

He said that the process had been slowed by the need for numerous autopsies but that volunteer pathologists were beginning to arrive.

As reporters lined up before the tour at the guarded gates of the morgue, which occupies a former school and warehouse, the family of Clementine Eleby, who would have been 80 on Friday, approached carrying placards, one of which read, "Free the Souls Held Hostage at the St. Gabriel Morgue."

The Eleby family's situation is of the sort that morgue officials have been hard-pressed to explain. Ms. Eleby died in a daughter's arms at the convention center in New Orleans, and that daughter was told to leave her there with identification. Only four bodies were picked up from the convention center, state officials say, and yet the family says it has heard nothing.

"They will not confirm, they will not deny where she is," Nancy Eleby said. "Every single day I call here begging for my mother."

Dr. Cataldie said all four bodies from the convention center might not yet be scientifically identified. And, he said, identification left on Ms. Eleby's body may not have reached the morgue.

Chief of Louisiana Morgue Says Pace of Work There Is Accelerating, NYT, 15.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/15/national/nationalspecial/15morgue.html

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana probes euthanasia allegations

 

Fri Oct 14, 2005
5:25 PM ET
Reuters
By Michael Peltier

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - The Louisiana attorney general is investigating whether staff at a New Orleans hospital may have euthanized frail patients in the days after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and conditions in the facility deteriorated.

The agency is focusing on the actions of physicians and administrators at Memorial Medical Center but is also looking at 13 nursing homes and five other hospitals as part of a larger probe, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles Foti said on Friday.

Rumors of euthanasia have repeatedly surfaced since Katrina struck the city on August 29 and left the facilities without water and power for days afterward, said Foti spokeswoman Kris Wartelle.

Witnesses have said conditions at Memorial hospital quickly deteriorated as temperatures soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degree Celsius) inside the building and the sanitation system broke down.

The probe has been stepped up since CNN reported on Thursday that a doctor at Memorial Medical said discussions of euthanasia had taken place there, although he never saw it performed.

"We have heard the reports," Wartelle said. "It's become a very serious investigation on that facility."

Dr. Bryant King told CNN that a few doctors and hospital administrators debated the issue as they tried to evacuate nearly 2,000 patients and family members from the facility in the three days following the storm. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

 

AUTOPSIES ORDERED

The attorney general has ordered autopsies of 45 bodies removed from the hospital after the storm. Of those, 11 died before Katrina and were being held in the hospital's morgue. Most of the remaining 34 people were patients in a long-term care unit located at the hospital.

Hospital officials say they have been cooperating with the state's investigation and will continue to do so.

"We understand that the Louisiana attorney general is investigating all deaths that occurred at New Orleans hospitals and nursing homes after the hurricane, and we fully support and are cooperating with him," said Steven Capanini, a spokesman for Tenet Health Care system, which owns Memorial, in a prepared statement.

The center's chief of anesthesiology said he cannot speak for the discussions of individual physicians in a facility that spans several city blocks.

But at no time was euthanasia ever considered by the facility's management team, he said.

"I can't control what individuals do but there was a concerted effort to get patients, families and staff out of the facility," said Dr. Glenn Casey, adding that the allegations have unfairly tarnished the staff's Herculean efforts following the storm.

"The people who were providing care are now being attacked," Casey said. "The staff put in 18-hour days in 115 degree heat to save lives ... The attorney general is investigating heroes."

    Louisiana probes euthanasia allegations, R, 14.10.2005,
http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-10-14T212517Z_01_YUE473185_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES-EUTHANASIA.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina spawned

plague of misinformation

 

USA Today
Posted 10/11/2005 1:15 AM
[ American format date ]
Mark Memmott

 

One thing can be said for certain about what it was like in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina roared through:
Much of what was reported as fact by government officials and the media during the chaotic first week afterward turned out to be fiction.

Myths and misinformation multiplied, from how many people died to what conditions were really like inside the Louisiana Superdome.

"If you don't have accurate information ... you could be making bad decisions and just creating the next disaster," says Ken Murphy, director of Oregon's Office of Emergency Management and a director at the National Emergency Management Association.

Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, generated a number of false reports. Among them:

•The death toll. Mayor Ray Nagin warned the city's toll could reach 10,000 dead, a figure repeated often in news accounts. As of last week Louisiana had confirmed 1,003 Katrina-related deaths in the entire state.

•Lawlessness. City officials, police and others said they were told of crime sprees at the Superdome and Ernest P. Morial Convention Center, where tens of thousands of people had taken shelter. The reports put the Bush administration on the defensive and sparked a massive movement of troops to the city. But an investigation by The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune found no evidence to support claims that babies were raped and armed gangs were on a murderous rampage in either place.

•Draining the city. Federal officials said it would take three months to drain the city. Six weeks later, New Orleans is largely dry.

John Hinderaker, co-author of the widely read conservative weblog Power Line, and other media watchers say the media need to take a hard look at their behavior.

"When the mayor said there might be 10,000 bodies, he was distraught, he was in the midst of a crisis," says Hinderaker. "What was shocking was that news organizations would just pick it up and keep repeating it when there'd really been no basis for it."

Experts in emergency management and communications say the real problem was a collapse of conventional communications systems, like phone systems. Those who had good information had no way of transmitting it. They say it's time to create a system that allows facts to be conveyed more quickly to decision-makers.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., have introduced legislation that would give telecommunications companies financial incentives to build crisis information systems into their Internet and cellphone networks. That way, information could be sent to multiple battery-powered laptops and cellphones via e-mails and text messages.

Reed Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, advocates designating a part of the wireless Internet spectrum known as Wi-Fi to a new emergency broadcast network.

"Wi-Fi networks can be run on batteries in times of crisis," Hundt says.

"You can float the antennas on boats. They can be dropped on to rooftops by helicopters," he says. "And laptops run by batteries too. There are darn few TV sets out there running on batteries."

Hundt also advocates equipping all police, fire and other emergency personnel with Wi-Fi-based, handheld communication devices.

 

Contributing: The Associated Press

    Katrina spawned plague of misinformation, USA Today, 11.10.2005, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-10-11-katrina-misinform

 

 

 

 

 

La. beating raises new security issues

 

USA Today
Posted 10/11/2005 1:13 AM
[ American format date ]
By Kevin Johnson
and Tom Vanden Brook

 

NEW ORLEANS — The only thing extraordinary about Monday's court appearance of police officers accused in the beating of a 64-year-old man in the French Quarter was the setting: The post-Katrina criminal courts center is in the Greyhound bus and Amtrak train terminal.

The officers appeared Monday in the temporary court facility at a bus and train terminal.
Bill Haber, AP

The alleged battery of Robert Davis, 64, and the alleged assault of a TV producer, Rich Matthews, Saturday night were the latest in a string of scandals involving officers linked to corruption and murder. (Related:Men denies police allegations)

Since Hurricane Katrina landed six weeks ago, the crises engulfing the police department and the criminal justice system have deepened by the week.

First came word that as many as 250 officers may have abandoned their posts after the storm. Those charged with desertion are likely to face hearings later this month. At least 13 officers are being investigated for looting, including taking Cadillacs from a car dealership. Late last month, police Superintendent Eddie Compass abruptly announced his retirement.

On Monday, the officers involved in the alleged assaults Saturday night — Lance Schilling, Robert Evangelist and S.M. Smith — pleaded innocent to misdemeanor charges of simple battery. Davis was charged with resisting arrest.

The bloody images on TV, which on Monday triggered a Justice Department investigation into possible civil rights violations, have raised questions about the city's ability to restore security as businesses and residents return to the city.

"This department has some very daunting challenges," District Attorney Eddie Jordan says. "Even if only a handful of officers are involved in this, it's a pretty terrible state of affairs. I have to think that problems within the department are pervasive and systemic."

 

City workers facing 'a great deal of stress'

Acting Police Superintendent Warren Riley, who immediately suspended the three officers, says the corruption problem of the past five years has been improving. In an interview with USA TODAY, Riley said the city had reason to be proud of the officers who remained at their posts, even though 80% of the 1,700 officers lost their homes in the storm.

Jordan and others say the troubles since Katrina go beyond a dysfunctional department:

•Because the storm nearly wiped out business and property taxes, there soon will be no money to pay employees. Jordan says he may be forced to shut down the district attorney's office in November.

"We have enough money to get us to the end of the month," he says. "Beyond that, I don't know."

•The status of at least 3,000 criminal cases is unclear because of flood damage to two evidence storage vaults in Police Headquarters and the Criminal Courts Building downtown. Water inundated the areas where evidence such as seized weapons, drugs and fragile DNA samples was stored.

Riley says it is uncertain whether police will ever return to the headquarters building.

•Witnesses, attorneys and judges, all scattered in the chaotic evacuation of the city, are still being located, Chief Judge Calvin Johnson says.

In a few jurisdictions outside the city, the outlook for the restoration of law enforcement institutions is even more uncertain.

The only reason the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Department still exists is that a local banker stepped up hours before payroll checks were due last week and offered a $500,000 line of credit.

Less than half of the 400 deputies are working. Twenty-five resigned to assist their families. Others were laid off with all but six of 30 administrative staffers.

Those who remain have moved into a trailer camp near the Mississippi River, where Sheriff Jack Stephens says "the boys" recently barbecued a couple of alligators that had washed into a welding shop. "Talk about livin' off the land," Stephens says. "You ever had alligator? Tastes pretty good, man."

The state's official search for casualties ceased last week, but Stephens says bodies continue to be discovered. Damage is so severe in some places that it may have been impossible for search parties to locate homes that were blown off their foundations.

Shortly after the storm, Stephens and his staff commandeered a houseboat as a temporary headquarters.

"It's easy to get overwhelmed," he says. "You got to slice the salami pretty thin and keep your focus on what you've got to accomplish in the next 24 hours."

Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, sees the process of restoring law and order in greater New Orleans as akin to a nation emerging from civil war.

"You can't have people returning there and have a criminal justice system that is not functioning," says Travis, a former director of the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department's research arm. "The rule of law has to be established for people to have a reasonable expectation of security."

In New Orleans, the city's security has never been the selling point that its restaurants and bawdy entertainment are. From the 1990s, when two officers were convicted of murder, to this year, when Compass asked the FBI to investigate charges of brutality, the department has been battling a serious image problem.

"Some officers have been involved in inexcusable conduct and should never have been on the force," Jordan says.

Terry Ebbert, chief of the city's emergency operations, says the strain of 12-hour shifts in difficult conditions is beginning to show. "It is a department under a great deal of stress," he says, not referring specifically to the weekend incident. "We have no criminal justice system functioning in the city today."

 

Video paints unfair picture, attorney says

Capt. Marlon DeFillo, a police department spokesman, dismisses any suggestion that the alleged assault was related to storm fatigue.

"I'm not going to give them a defense," DeFillo said Monday. "That's a question for a psychologist or a psychiatrist to answer."

Frank DeSalvo, the officers' attorney, questions the department's decision to suspend the officers.

"The problem with the videotape is that it doesn't show what happened before," DeSalvo says. "The man struck the police officers first. The guy was intoxicated and out of control." Davis' lawyer denies that his client was intoxicated.

"The department's reputation is always of concern to me," he says. "It's unfortunate that the only time the department is the focus is when things go awry."

Riley hopes the NOPD will be fully functional by next month. That hope depends on whether the department will be able to reclaim its flooded headquarters and replace equipment lost in the storm, including 300 patrol cars.

Officer Ned Tolliver, standing on Canal Street, says officers are making do. "Everybody's working hard," he says, "trying to do their jobs."

La. beating raises new security issues, 11.10.2005,
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-10-11-no-beating-usat_x.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Liberal Hopes Ebb

in Post-Storm Poverty Debate

 

October 11, 2005
The New York Times
By JASON DePARLE

 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 - As Hurricane Katrina put the issue of poverty onto the national agenda, many liberal advocates wondered whether the floods offered a glimmer of opportunity. The issues they most cared about - health care, housing, jobs, race - were suddenly staples of the news, with President Bush pledged to "bold action."

But what looked like a chance to talk up new programs is fast becoming a scramble to save the old ones.

Conservatives have already used the storm for causes of their own, like suspending requirements that federal contractors have affirmative action plans and pay locally prevailing wages. And with federal costs for rebuilding the Gulf Coast estimated at up to $200 billion, Congressional Republican leaders are pushing for spending cuts, with programs like Medicaid and food stamps especially vulnerable.

"We've had a stunning reversal in just a few weeks," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. "We've gone from a situation in which we might have a long-overdue debate on deep poverty to the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that low-income people will be asked to bear the costs. I would find it unimaginable if it wasn't actually happening."

Mr. Greenstein's comments were echoed by Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut: "Poor people are going to get the short end of the stick, despite all the public sympathy. That's a great irony."

But many conservatives see logic, not irony, at work. If the storm exposed great poverty, they say, it also exposed the problems of the very policies that liberals have supported.

"This is not the time to expand the programs that were failing anyway," said Stuart M. Butler, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and advocacy group influential on Capitol Hill.

While the right has proposed alternatives including tax-free zones for businesses and school vouchers for students, Mr. Butler said, "the left has just talked up the old paradigm: 'let's expand what's failed before.' "

Doubt about the effectiveness of some programs is only one factor shaping the current antipoverty debate. Another is political muscle: poor people do not make campaign contributions. Many do not even vote.

A third factor is the federal deficit, which leaves little money for new initiatives. And a fourth is the continuing support for tax cuts, including those aimed at the wealthiest Americans, which further limits spending on social programs.

Indeed, even as he was calling for deep spending cuts last week, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, who leads the conservative caucus, called tax reductions for the prosperous a key to fighting poverty.

"Raising taxes in the wake of a national catastrophe would imperil the very economic growth we need to bring the Gulf Coast back," Mr. Pence said. "I'm mindful of what a pipe fitter once said to President Reagan: 'I've never been hired by a poor man.' A growing economy is in the interest of every working American, regardless of their income."

Economic growth is crucial to reducing poverty, but the effect of tax rates is less clear. In 1993, President Bill Clinton raised taxes on upper-income families, the economy boomed and poverty fell for the next seven years. In 2001, President Bush cut taxes deeply, but even with economic growth, the poverty rate has risen every year since.

In 2004, about 12.7 percent of the country, or 37 million people, lived below the poverty line, which was about $19,200 for a family of four. The figure was 7.8 percent among whites, 24.7 percent among blacks and 21.9 percent among Hispanics.

Hurricane Katrina gave those figures a face as no statistic can.

"As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region," with "roots in a history of racial discrimination," President Bush said in a Sept. 15 speech from New Orleans. Using the language of the civil rights movement, Mr. Bush pledged "not just to cope, but to overcome."

But liberal critics say his policies will have the opposite effect.

The week before his speech, Mr. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 law that prohibits federally financed construction jobs from paying wages less than a local average. The administration argued that the suspension, which applied only to storm areas, would benefit local residents by stretching financial resources.

Critics said the savings would come at the expense of needy workers.

Likewise, the president suspended rules requiring federal contractors to file affirmative action plans, which his allies called cumbersome.

"He talks about lending a helping hand to the poor and disadvantaged," Jared Bernstein, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research and advocacy group in Washington, said of Mr. Bush. "But these policies push the other way, toward lower wages and less racial inclusion."

In another dispute, the president has taken on a senior member of his own party, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr. Grassley wants to expand Medicaid to cover all the poor who survived Hurricane Katrina, including many adults who did not previously qualify. The expansion would last five months, though it could be extended, and the federal government would cover the costs.

While most Democrats support the measure, the Bush administration strongly opposes it, arguing that evacuees would be served faster through more modest changes in existing state programs.

In part, the dispute has the feel of a proxy war about the larger fate of the program, which the administration has sharply criticized.

A similar proxy war has played out in housing policy after the Senate voted to house evacuees through the Section 8 program, which offers poor people subsidies for private housing. Critical of the program's cost, the administration instead created a parallel voucher program for hurricane evacuees.

In budget battles, the storm had one immediate effect: delaying the $35 billion in spending cuts ordered in last spring's Congressional budget resolution. About $10 billion over five years was expected to come from Medicaid and about $600 million from food stamps.

The delay occurred after some lawmakers said it was wrong to cut safety net programs with so many storm survivors seeking aid.

But the pendulum is swinging the other way. Concerned about the storm's costs, a group of 100 House conservatives released a list of suggested spending cuts totaling $370 billion over five years.

And President Bush weighed in last week, saying, "Congress needs to pay for as much of the hurricane relief as possible by cutting spending."

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Jim Nussle, Republican of Iowa, wants to increase the cuts in the budget bill to $50 billion, from the $35 billion agreed on last spring. Senate leaders are also talking of new cuts, though they have not announced a numerical goal.

As they search for spending cuts, neither chamber has turned away from the $70 billion package of tax reductions authorized last spring. Mr. Greenstein, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says those tax cuts come on top of two others, passed in 2001, that are scheduled to take effect in January and that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

Mr. Greenstein argues that the logic of shared sacrifice requires the tax cuts to be reconsidered. But most Congressional Republicans disagree, including Mr. Pence, the conservative leader.

"To allow tax cuts to lapse is a tax increase," Mr. Pence said, "and the economy would suffer."

Some conservatives say the storm, in exposing the depth of poverty, gives them a chance to push their own solutions to the problem, like school vouchers or subsidies to help poor people accumulate assets.

"What we've done for the poor hasn't worked," said Robert L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a conservative policy group. "People are going to say, 'How did these people get into this circumstance in the first place?' It gives us an opportunity to really turn over a new leaf."

    Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate,  NYT, 11.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/11/politics/11poverty.ht

 

 

 

 

 

Economy Loses 35,000 Jobs;

Storm Impact Is Unclear

 

October 7, 2005
The New York Times
By VIKAS BAJAJ

 

The nation's job market contracted far less than expected in September after Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore in New Orleans and Mississippi, the government reported today, indicating that the economy could be responding to the devastation better than had been feared.

But government and private economists said the Labor Department's much-watched monthly employment report may simply be reflecting the difficulty of surveying the hundreds of thousands of evacuees and businesses that are no longer working or operating in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities.

And the report, which is based on surveys early in the month, does not account for Hurricane Rita, which came ashore on Sept. 24, or for rebuilding activity.

Employers' payrolls fell by 35,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent from 4.9 percent in August. Excluding the hurricane, the prior 12 month's job growth trend suggests employment would have risen by about 195,000, the government estimates. That means the hurricane was responsible for the loss of roughly 230,000 jobs.

"In a way, it's almost encouraging." Loren Scott, an economist and emeritus professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, said noting that the New Orleans metropolitan area alone had 617,000 jobs. "That's really amazing."

Economists, factoring in the expected effects of Katrina, were expecting payrolls to drop by 150,000 and unemployment to edge up to 5 percent.

"It is clear that Hurricane Katrina adversely affected labor market conditions in September," Philip L. Rones, the deputy commissioner for the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress today, according to his prepared remarks. "However, we cannot quantify precisely the overall effects of the disaster and its aftermath on the September employment and unemployment figures. We hope to get additional insight as more data become available."

The Labor Department also revised up the number of jobs added in August (211,000, up from 169,000) and July (277,000 up from 242,000).

"Individually these numbers are very erratic," Ethan Harris, chief United States economist at Lehman Brothers, said about the unemployment numbers and other economic statistics. But "even in the month of September, which is the month where you should see horrendous data, the data looked like a mild shock. I am encouraged by the numbers."

The financial markets reacted modestly to the latest employment data. The stock market was up slightly early this afternoon in New York. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 3.51 points, to 1,195.00. And prices of Treasury securities were moderately higher.

Economists said that the September numbers were likely to be revised next month after the government has gathered more data, and that the job losses could increase as employers stop paying workers in the affected areas who have not been able to return to their jobs. In the aftermath of the storm, some companies have said they would continue to pay employees for several weeks, indicating that payrolls could show a more significant drop in October.

The employment report is based on two surveys - one of businesses and one of households - that ask respondents to provide information on their status on the 12th of each month. The change in payroll figures comes from the first survey and the unemployment rate from the second.

The Labor Department assumed a business it could not reach in the hurricane-affected areas had shut down and now had no employees. That is different from the department's normal practice of assuming unresponsive businesses' payrolls changed at the same rate as its neighbors. In areas of New Orleans that were heavily affected by Katrina, half of all establishments the government contacted responded, compared with 67 percent nationally. In areas of Mississippi affected by the hurricanes, the response rate was 53 percent.

For the household survey, the government did not contact people who had moved into hotels, shelters and churches.

"It may mean that we lost people from the labor force that we didn't really lose," said Michael Strauss, chief economist at Commonfund, which manages money for universities and other nonprofit groups. "They just weren't around to respond."

That is less of a concern for gauging national companies, which often provide data to the government for all of their operations from one central human resource office. But it could be a significant in measuring the impact on small businesses.

Indeed, the Labor Department's report showed that employment in the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes many local businesses that are a big part of the New Orleans economy, fell by 80,000 and food service payrolls fell by 54,000.

Retail jobs fell by 88,000 after increasing on average by 18,000 a month for the last year. And manufacturing payrolls were down by 27,000, of which 18,000 were striking Boeing machinists who returned to work late last month. An airline strike also drove down the number of jobs in the transportation sector by 8,000.

But temporary help services had an increase of 32,000 jobs and the construction industry continued growing, adding 23,000 jobs.

Average hourly earnings rose by 3 cents, to $16.18 an hour, and the number of hours worked were unchanged at 33.7 hours.

Looking ahead, economists said strong employment and wage growth could prove critical to overcoming the burden of higher gasoline and heating prices - both of which have been driven up by disruptions to oil supplies and production caused by the hurricanes. "If the labor market starts coming back and the energy shock stabilizes a little bit, that's good news for Christmas," Mr. Harris of Lehman Brothers said.

 

Eduardo Porter contributed reporting for this article.

    Economy Loses 35,000 Jobs; Storm Impact Is Unclear, NYT, 7.10.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/07/business/07cnd-econ.html

 

 

 

 

 

At FEMA's First Big Trailer Park,

'Gold' for One Evacuee

 

October 7, 2005
The New York Times
By CHRISTINE HAUSER

 

BAKER, La., Oct. 6 - Arcenia Crayton finally got the opportunity on Wednesday to close a door behind her and experience a rare moment of serenity, five weeks after living shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other evacuees who escaped the floods of New Orleans.

It was in a 28-foot aluminum-sided trailer, set on cinder blocks and surrounded by hundreds like it in the middle of a dirt lot in this small town about 10 miles outside Baton Rouge.

It was not as spacious as the house she fled in New Orleans. But it was not a crowded shelter for evacuees like the one she just left behind, and for now, at least, it belongs only to her family.

"This is gold," said Ms. Crayton, 38, a licensed practical nurse, clutching the keys to her new home.

"This place is not like my old house in New Orleans, where I had all the amenities and two bedrooms," she said, checking out the new microwave in the small kitchen area. "But when it comes to having peace of mind and privacy, this is a blessing."

With the turn of a key on Wednesday, Mrs. Crayton and her extended family were at the vanguard of the next step in Louisiana's saga of dispersal and homelessness wrought by two hurricanes and pounding floods.

They were among the first group of evacuees to move into the trailer park, set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start draining the shelters of evacuees, including the elderly and small children. The housing is intended to be temporary, giving more than 39,000 evacuees in shelters a chance to find their feet again after being uprooted from homes, jobs and schools. Another 30,000 evacuees are sheltered outside Louisiana. Priority is being given to the elderly, the disabled and families with children.

The Baker park, which has a capacity of 2,000 people and is the largest set up by FEMA in Louisiana, is wedged between a juvenile prison and a church.

Its 573 trailers are connected to running water, sewage lines and electricity. They have air-conditioning, microwaves, velour couches and bed linens. Plastic tiled floors are imprinted to look like hardwood.

A few smaller parks have been set up and more are in development, some of which could be as large as the Baker site, in line with state plans to resettle everyone now in shelters, said James McIntyre, a FEMA spokesman.

In a reflection of the urgency to move people out of crowded shelters, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco issued an order on Wednesday saying state-owned land could be used for housing for evacuees, overriding any local ordinances prohibiting the use of the property for residential purposes.

For many of those moving into the park, the trailers are a first step toward a new life outside New Orleans, as they begin to seek permanent jobs and housing in Baker.

At the Red Cross shelter in Baker, Ms. Crayton's sister-in-law, Izella Crayton, registered her 5-year-old son, Donald, for preschool before she left to claim her new trailer in the nearby park.

"I am going to start a new life here," said Izella Crayton, a single mother to Donald and 2-year old Dontrice, as she later struggled with the key at the door to her new trailer.

"Lord, this is our new house. This is beautiful!" she exclaimed as she entered and hoisted her children into their bunk beds.

"The first thing I am going to do is find me a job and put my kids in school," she said. She said she planned to stay for the full 18 months allowed by FEMA and look for work as a housekeeper, taking public transportation into Baton Rouge or Baker.

Next door, her sister-in-law Arcenia said she would take the opportunity of 18 months of free housing to put herself through school to become a registered nurse. Her husband, she said, found a job in a clean-up crew. "We have just this period of adjustment," she said.

In the trailers around them, their neighbors began moving in their possessions: rolled-up bedding, plastic boxes filled with folded clothes and drinks.

Izella Crayton said she had barely been able to make ends meet in New Orleans, after she took $450 in monthly rent from her salary as a nursing home dietitian.

"Baker is a little slow because we are used to Mardi Gras," she said. "But I am ready for it. I have seen gunshots, drug dealing. I am glad to be away from all that."

She said she would use "wisely" the $2,000 that FEMA has given her and each evacuee until she finds work.

Not far away, an elderly woman in a wheelchair and an elderly man were helped from a bus that had just brought them to the park from a Baton Rouge shelter.

"We couldn't find an apartment because there was a long waiting list," said Amelia Francis, 80, after she was taken to the trailer she will share with her 57-year-old daughter, Janice Reed. "I am too old to be starting over."

Not everyone in Baker, a town of 13,700 with slightly more blacks than whites, has welcomed the prospect of unfamiliar faces. Some have expressed fears about an increase in crime.

Just before evacuees started to be taken out of Baker's shelters and into the trailer park, one Baker resident, Pamela Linton, 47, measured the distance from her driveway to the park: four-tenths of a mile.

"I am scared," she said, sipping cola on her back porch, built on the site of an old cotton plantation. "It does worry me if I come in at night and they are walking the streets."

Jack Milton, owner of the local shooting range, said he has been "snowed under" with business in the last month.

Others worry that the newcomers will take their jobs. "I think the workforce is going to get tougher because already so many people are out there looking," said John David Hall, 43, as he stopped at Luie's Bait and Tackle en route to hunting deer with a bow and arrow.

Mr. McIntyre of FEMA acknowledged that there was an impact on any community when as many as 1,500 people are brought in. "Local officials do have legitimate concerns," he said.

In Baker, the resettlement plan has meant crowded schools, an expanded police force, a tighter budget and, in some instances, a merging of big-city and small-town ways, said the mayor, Harold M. Rideau. "It has nothing to do with race," he said.

Across the street from the park, however, residents in the mostly black subdivision say they are delighted to have it, because they will get to use a new bus route that will be set up to allow the evacuees to get to town. The neighborhood has never had access to public transportation.

    At FEMA's First Big Trailer Park, 'Gold' for One Evacuee, NYT, 7.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/07/national/nationalspecial/07trailer.html

 

 

 

 

 

In Shift,

FEMA Will Seek Bids for Gulf Work

 

October 7, 2005
The New York Times
By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ and ERIC LIPTON

 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 - The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told a Senate panel on Thursday that the agency would seek new bids on $400 million worth of contracts that had originally been awarded with no competition in the Katrina recovery effort.

In announcing the move, R. David Paulison, the agency's acting director, responded to sharp criticism after FEMA suspended normal contracting rules in the frantic first days of trying to help storm victims and rebuild the Gulf Coast.

The contracts up for bidding - worth up to $100 million each - were awarded to four giant firms specializing in construction, engineering and consulting, said Nicol Andrews, an agency spokeswoman. The businesses have long records of work for the federal government, and some have executives or lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration.

Mr. Paulison did not indicate that his agency had found anything inappropriate in the contract awards, but he appeared to agree with critics who have warned that awarding contracts without bids could result in abuse and waste.

"I've never been a fan of no-bid contracts," Mr. Paulison said in an appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "All of those no-bid contracts we are going to go back and rebid."

Agency officials acknowledged that they had rushed in awarding the contracts and say they now have time to reconsider them. They can re-open the process because the four companies have already exceeded a $50,000 minimum threshold that allows the agency to terminate the deals. The recovery effort will not be slowed during the bidding because the contractors will continue to perform work, agency officials said.

The four contracts up for rebidding were awarded early last month to The Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, La., Fluor Corporation of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Bechtel National of San Francisco and CH2M Hill of Denver. They have already won commitments from FEMA for a total of $125 million in work, identifying sites for trailers and mobile homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees and then installing the housing across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Government watchdog groups have been raising questions from the moment these contracts were awarded. The Shaw Group's lobbyist is Joe M. Allbaugh, the former FEMA director and a friend of President Bush. Bechtel has ties to the Republican Party; George Shultz, the former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, is on the corporation's board, and Riley P. Bechtel, the chairman and chief executive, served on President Bush's Export Council.

In discussing the decision to suspend the no-bid contracts, Mr. Paulison was responding to questions from Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut.

"It sure looks, with hindsight, that FEMA would have been in a much better position if it had had a lot of contracts in place that had been bid that were standby contracts to provide exactly the kind of services that FEMA rushed in to provide on a no-bid basis," Mr. Lieberman said. He said "taxpayers may have ended up paying more money" than they should have.

Mr. Paulison sought to reassure the senator, saying, "We can put things in place for the future where we will not have to depend on no-bid contracts for future use."

Spokesmen for Bechtel and Fluor said Thursday that they had no objection to the agency's competitive bidding plan. They also defended the original contract awards, saying their companies were selected based on their ability to perform the work, not on any connections the company's executives might have.

"If FEMA decides to rebid contracts, we certainly will accept their decision to do so," Howard N. Menaker, a spokesman for Bechtel, said.

Critics said they welcomed the decision to reconsider the deals, but questioned why the effort did not include some no-bid contracts awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Competition benefits the federal government and taxpayers and allows us to get more value for the goods or services that the government purchases," said Scott Amey, general counsel to the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group that investigates federal contracting.

Since Hurricane Katrina hit, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, FEMA has signed contracts for more than $2 billion in temporary housing, including more than 120,000 trailers and mobile homes.

Mr. Paulison's appearance before the Senate came the same day the House voted, 347 to 70, to approve on the Department of Homeland Security's 2006 fiscal-year budget, which reduces financing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency by 12 percent, to $2.6 billion. The Senate is expected to vote on the department's overall $31.9 billion budget soon.

Part of the reduction reflects emergency appropriations Congress has already made to cover hurricane-related costs and a reorganization requested by the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. The reorganization would transfer some duties from FEMA to other agencies. But the base budget for FEMA - including financing for its response to disasters and for programs aimed at reducing damage from future hurricanes or earthquakes - was trimmed in the measure passed Thursday night.

That evoked immediate criticism from emergency management experts.

"It's difficult to understand the logic behind another round of budget cuts to FEMA at the same time Congress is questioning their ability to respond to future disasters," said Trina R. Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association.

The overall budget for Mr. Chertoff's department will go up 4 percent, in large part because of extra spending to enhance border enforcement efforts.

The Homeland Security budget adopted by the House Thursday evening includes $1.3 billion more than President Bush had requested. Despite calls for an increase after the bombings in London this summer, the bill includes $150 million in grant funds for transit system nationwide, the same amount as this year. The bill includes $4.6 billion for aviation security, $7.8 billion for the Coast Guard and a total of $9 billion for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    In Shift, FEMA Will Seek Bids for Gulf Work, NYT, 7.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/07/politics/07home.html

 

 

 

 

 

Most New Orleans residents

allowed to return home

 

Wed Oct 5, 2005
12:28 PM ET
Reuters

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Most New Orleans residents were allowed back to their homes on Wednesday, though officials expect few will stay since many homes are not yet livable, there is no drinking water and some areas have no electricity.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Tuesday said the city, ravaged by two hurricanes in late August and September, could accommodate up to 200,000 people, and that about 80,000 of the 455,000 pre-hurricane population was already back in town.

"I'm hoping we get a lot more people," Nagin told reporters at a news conference.

Even the mayor, who has said he wants residents scattered around the country to come home, said he did not believe it would be a good idea for residents of houses that may have been submerged in flood waters for weeks to live in their homes.

"You can come in, look and leave, as long as you abide by the curfew," he said. New Orleans is keeping everyone off the streets from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily.

Eighty percent of low-lying New Orleans was flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina broke through levees and flood walls at the end of August. Hurricane Rita, which struck the Louisiana-Texas border on September 24, caused new flooding that still persists in some areas.

Emergency services continue to be backed up as crews from around the country work to restore the city's hard-hit infrastructure.

Roadblocks and checkpoints manned by police and national guard troops were largely removed from the city in the last week, although New Orleans' hardest-hit area, the mostly poor and black Ninth Ward, is still partially flooded and remains off limits.

 

'PUPPY PINATAS'

Nagin had initially sought to bring tens of thousands of people back to the city two weeks after Katrina hit, but that plan was scrapped ahead of Hurricane Rita's arrival. That triggered a firestorm of criticism against the mayor for potentially putting citizens in jeopardy.

Fears that city is not yet ready to support a large population remain.

"He's out of his mind," said Margaret Reina, 48, who returned to inspect her house in New Orleans' Fouberg Marigny neighborhood on Tuesday only to find the same downed and dangling power lines she saw three weeks ago on her block. "I wouldn't bring children or old people here."

"It's just going to get worse," said Colleen McCann, 51, who since Katrina hit has been staying above the bar where she works. She was frustrated by the massive piles of garbage bags, which she called "puppy pinatas" because many were ripped open by neighborhood dogs, that have accumulated on the street.

"If nothing happens with that you're really going to see some disease," McCann said.

Nagin said the city was moving "aggressively into temporary housing mode" and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide about 700 trailers for families whose homes are still uninhabitable.

He also said preliminary tests had shown the quality of the city's water supply currently exceeded the necessary standards, but that it still needed the approval of state officials. That approval could come as early as this weekend, Nagin said.

    Most New Orleans residents allowed to return home, R, 5.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-10-05T162828Z_01_DIT547129_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES.xml
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A shrouded body is seen

in a Sept. 27 photograph

of a home in the Mid-City section of New Orleans

with spray paint markings

indicating that it had been searched on Sept. 12.

 

LM Otero/Associated Press

Weeks Later, Most Storm Victims Lie Unnamed        NYT        5.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/05/national/nationalspecial/05identity.html


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Weeks Later,

Most Storm Victims Lie Unnamed

 

October 5, 2005
The New York Times
By SHAILA DEWAN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Oct. 4 - In a country that cherishes the names of the dead, reads them aloud, engraves them in stone and stitches them into quilts, it is odd that Hurricane Katrina's victims remain, more than a month later, largely anonymous.

There has been no accounting of their age, sex and race, nor of how they died or where they were found. As for how they lived, it is difficult to find even a Web site paying tribute to individual victims. With 972 deaths confirmed and the search for bodies declared complete, the state has released only 61 bodies and made the names of only 32 victims public.

In contrast, of the 221 dead in Mississippi, 196 have been identified, a state official said.

Like any silence, the one blanketing Louisiana's dead is ripe for interpretation - to some, including family members who wait in anguish, it is further proof of bureaucratic bungling or a lack of regard for the poor blacks who doubtless make up many of the victims. To others, it is a deliberate attempt to shield an embarrassing truth from view.

State officials, still in crisis mode, say compiling and releasing data about the dead is simply not a priority. They say several factors have contributed to delays: criminal investigations that have forced them to perform more autopsies than expected; the arrival of a second hurricane, Rita, which once again displaced their staff; and the condition bodies were in after spending days or weeks in the heat or water. The New Orleans coroner, Frank Minyard, has complained that pathologists from around the country have volunteered to help but that he awaits a trailer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house them. But critics say that the state officials have not released bodies whose identities are obvious and that Louisiana has imposed too tough a standard on confirming the names of victims.

Tattoos, driver's licenses and physical characteristics have been used in Mississippi. But they are apparently not enough for Louisiana officials, who said last week that either a fingerprint, dental or DNA match is required.

About 370 of the bodies at the temporary morgue set up by FEMA have been "presumptively" identified but await confirmation by one of those three methods.

Nor has the Department of Health and Hospitals been willing to make public information that it has collected, from the recovery locations to the autopsy results. Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state emergency medical director, has made it clear that he is bewildered by a reporter's request for precise numbers, saying at a briefing last week that there had been "six to seven homicides" and "there haven't been that many" children.

Asked afterward how many more bodies might be out there, he appeared exasperated. "There is one out there," he said. "That's all that matters, isn't it?"

After that briefing, the Department of Health and Hospitals posted the names of 32 of the dead on the Internet, but by the next morning the list was gone.

On the edges of the disaster zone, a much clearer picture of Hurricane Katrina's victims has emerged. In Houston, the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office lists the names of 53 evacuees who have died, most of natural causes and two by suicide. In Dallas, there are 23, including twins who died of "extreme prematurity due to maternal exhaustion and dehydration occurring as a result of Hurricane Katrina."

Don Morrow, the director of operations for the coroner in East Baton Rouge, said that among the evacuees who died in his parish there were 24 males and 44 females, that 36 were white, 30 black and 2 Hispanic, and that more than 60 victims were older than 50. Six were under 21; the oldest victim was 95.

Those killed directly by the storm, which struck Aug. 29, remain the least known.

The lack of information has robbed the death toll, released each day in a terse statement from Dr. Cataldie's office, of a human face. "There really haven't been any stories of who they are," said Marian Fontana, who lost her husband in the World Trade Center and became a prominent advocate for Sept. 11 victims' families. "I think the way people really connected to 9/11 was people's lives, and I haven't heard any of that. It reminds me of the tsunami," where hundreds of victims ended up in mass graves. "It was a big giant number in a place far away."

Families of the victims have expressed frustration that the process is not moving more quickly. Memorial services and burials have been delayed indefinitely, and families must wait to file insurance claims, execute wills and settle estates. Even the few who have been are able to bury their loved ones question what is going on. One woman, Marion K. Babin, said it took weeks to get the body of her husband, Justin Babin, though he wore a hospital bracelet and medical dog tags listing his name and condition. Officials said that Mr. Babin had to be autopsied because he was found in a hospital and that the attorney general was investigating all hospital and nursing home deaths.

And some deaths unrelated to the storm have been caught up in the process. One of the 32 names released was that of Jason Curtis Zito, 30, who choked to death on a wad of tobacco on Sept. 23, his mother said.

Gary T. Hargrove, the coroner of Harrison County in Mississippi, said he was "quite surprised" to read that Louisiana had identified so few of the dead, and speculated that the lag was because of the state's blighted body retrieval effort, which began a week after the storm.

"We started recoveries on the Monday afternoon after the storm, as soon as the winds dropped below 60 miles per hour," Mr. Hargrove said, adding that 65 of the county's 88 bodies have been identified and 63 have been released.

But advanced decomposition does not entirely explain the discrepancy. Just as in Louisiana, Mississippi's bodies were too decomposed to be viewed by families - but many could be identified by physical characteristics. In Jackson County, 9 of 12 identities were confirmed, mostly by scars, tattoos, prosthetics or implants, said Vicki Broadus, the coroner.

Still, forensic experts who have dealt with mass casualties cautioned that every disaster presents distinct challenges.

"Every single disaster I've ever worked this comes up, like maybe they're doing too much," said Dr. Mary Jumbelic, the medical examiner for Onondaga County in New York, who worked on the tsunami last year, the aftermath of Sept. 11 and several plane crashes. Medical examiners have to pre-empt fears that families received the wrong remains, Dr. Jumbelic said. "That will be the question three months from now if the standards are not adhered to."

Dr. Charles Hirsch, the chief medical examiner of New York City, whose office handled the dead after the World Trade Center attack, said Louisiana, where parish coroners are responsible for issuing death certificates, had geographic and jurisdictional issues that did not arise with Sept. 11, where the disaster spanned only 16 acres and the bulk of the surviving family members were not dispersed throughout the 50 states.

Still, Dr. Hirsch said, with most bodies intact, forensic specialists had many more identification options available than after 9/11, when many of the remains were fragmentary. "If you can get DNA, with modern technology, you can probably make identifications in a week or two," Dr. Hirsch said.

The health department has collected 246 DNA samples from relatives. One morgue worker has been traveling to New Orleans to salvage dental records.

Dr. Cataldie has acknowledged that the process is painfully slow, but said he had to be certain of its accuracy. Among the difficulties, he said, was the fact that bodies, and sometimes even medical records found in New Orleans, must be decontaminated when they come in to the morgue.

"If I had a child in that morgue, it'd be horrible, absolutely," he said. "I don't know any way to make it faster."

    Weeks Later, Most Storm Victims Lie Unnamed, NYT, 5.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/05/national/nationalspecial/05identity.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Hurricane Katrina Rolled In, the Cash Has Rolled Out

NYT        5.10.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/05/business/05liberty.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Hurricane Katrina Rolled In,

the Cash Has Rolled Out

 

October 5, 2005
The New York Times
By GARY RIVLIN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Oct. 4 - Those first few weeks after the storm proved to be exhausting but heady times for Alden J. McDonald Jr., the chief executive of Liberty Bank and Trust, the largest black-owned bank in New Orleans. Two weeks after the storm, Mr. McDonald predicted that within days he would be reopening several of his eight branches in New Orleans.

But he never did. Optimism is harder to come by five weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. McDonald and his staff remain stuffed into a makeshift warren of offices here, struggling with the new reality of running a bank where the customer base has scattered and the money seems only to flow out.

The strain seems to be taking its toll. Speaking recently in his office, his voice sounded creaky, his eyes appeared heavy with fatigue. "Many things," Mr. McDonald said, expelling a long sigh, "are taking much longer than we had initially anticipated."

Mr. McDonald has agreed to allow a reporter to chronicle his efforts over the coming months to rebuild in New Orleans. He sat behind a large wooden desk and for much of that time he used his fists to prop up his head. Maybe it only seemed as if his head would hit the desk with a thump if he lowered his arms. When told he looked exhausted, he said, distractedly, "I'm supposed to get a haircut at some time today."

Money still flowed into Liberty in the early days after Katrina as customers deposited final paychecks and severance checks. The bank even managed to post nearly $3 million in loans two weeks after the hurricane as a tiny fraction of Liberty's customers turned to the bank for a mortgage on a home in a newly adopted town.

But those rays of hope proved largely false. Deposits have slowed considerably since the first few weeks. Customers, meanwhile, continue to withdraw whatever savings they have, forcing the bank to rely on its reserve funds, which are deep but not limitless. And after that one robust week, the bank's loan business, Mr. McDonald said, "is down to almost nothing."

Everywhere he looks, Mr. McDonald sees his bank leaking money, like a boat whose hull has been blasted with holes. Liberty spent $500,000 to buy a new mainframe computer and software to replace equipment destroyed by flooding, and has so far paid $70,000 to a firm providing emergency computer backup services.

Before the hurricane, the bank collected roughly $150,000 in loan fees and took in $50,000 a month in A.T.M. charges. It logged another $70,000 charging monthly service fees.

But Mr. McDonald has temporarily waived those monthly service fees for any customer living in an area with hurricane damage - or four in every five Liberty customers. And, of course, Liberty is not booking closing costs and other fees on loans it cannot make, nor can it collect charges for an A.T.M. network that has been down for more than a month.

One potential source of good news are all those charges customers are piling up on Liberty-issued credit cards, which means more commissions for the bank. Except Mr. McDonald is convinced that any extra fees the bank collects will pale compared with the bad credit card debt it will be writing off in the coming months.

"These are nervous times for the bank," said Norman C. Francis, Liberty's board chairman and one of its founders. "We'll be able to survive minimally, by doing business with the city and big corporations and what have you, but the question is, can we continue to serve as a community bank, which was always our reason for existing."

The company's large corporate clients, which include the likes of Aetna and American Express, have assured Mr. McDonald that they will continue banking with Liberty. Still, to ensure that the bank will have enough money to start writing loans when people are ready to rebuild, Mr. McDonald, who has run Liberty for more than 30 years, began reaching out to an extensive network of contacts around the country last week in search of well-heeled depositors.

"My plan is to have friends and corporations and other banks around the country send me $100,000 deposits," Mr. McDonald said. "If I can convince 200 people and corporations to do this, that's $20 million to replace funds that moved out of the community."

There were headaches and frustrations everywhere Mr. McDonald turned in the blur of those first days. There were backup tapes he sent out ahead of the storm that were missing for nearly a week and every day seemed to bring another excuse from the local phone company.

But there were also daily victories. His main operations center, a low-slung, one-story building on the east side of New Orleans, filled with water to the ceiling, destroying his million-dollar central computer system. Yet in less than two weeks, the bank was back on the national network of A.T.M. machines. Customers were able to reach a makeshift call center, even if doing so required persistence.

Optimism has been harder to come by now that the employees have had a chance to see the damage wrought by the stinking waters that flooded five of Liberty's branches, and the vandalism that damaged two more.

Less immediate problems that had been designated "Week 3 issues" were renamed "Week 4 issues" - until they were recast as matters bank workers hoped to address in this, the fifth week after Katrina.

Those include essential functions like working A.T.M.'s (as of Tuesday, customers could still get access to their accounts only from non-Liberty machines), and the reinstatement of an advanced online banking center that - before the storm - rivaled those of much larger banks. Mr. McDonald had previously projected that the A.T.M.'s and the Web site would be up two weeks ago. Mr. McDonald said BellSouth had told him it lacked capacity on existing phone lines and would need to lay new cable.

The storm team that gathers each day in Mr. McDonald's office is, five weeks later, still dealing with a long list of other basic tasks that includes the retrieval of the cash, dirty and wet, sitting inside five waterlogged branches. Late last week, he was assembling teams to venture into the city to clean and count whatever money each branch had on hand. He still needed to dispatch teams to sift through the muck and see what records can be recovered.

Part of the holdup, Mr. McDonald said, is that only a small fraction of the 150-employee work force he had employed just before the storm has been able to find housing in the Baton Rouge area. "I've got 65 people - that's more than 40 percent of my people - who want to work but can't find housing," Mr. McDonald said. Another quarter of his workers have not bothered to check in since the storm. Helping employees find affordable housing in an area already overwhelmed by refugees is yet another item on Mr. McDonald's to-do list.

For all the money leaking out in recent weeks, nothing seems to gall him as much as the tens of thousands he has been forced to pay for computer backup. Knowing that service would cost a minimum of $50,000 a month, he ordered a new mainframe computer almost immediately after learning that his had been destroyed. A new central computer would allow the bank to reconnect its A.T.M. machines and offer online bill paying and other banking services.

The new system was scheduled for delivery in mid-September. The truck arrived at Liberty's temporary headquarters more or less on time - except it carried with it only half the shipment. Another week would pass before the remaining parts arrived. A software glitch caused further delays.

Even in the best of circumstances, the money paid to the backup firm would eat at Mr. McDonald. But these, of course, are hardly the best of times for Liberty. "I'm losing money right now," Mr. McDonald said, "and I don't like losing money."

    Since Hurricane Katrina Rolled In, the Cash Has Rolled Out, NYT, 5.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/05/business/05liberty.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans lays off 3,000

in sign of struggle ahead

 

Tue Oct 4, 2005 8:51 PM ET
Reuters
By Nichola Groom

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Mayor Ray Nagin said on Tuesday New Orleans will lay off 40 percent of its workers and warned of more belt-tightening ahead, a bleak reminder of the challenges the city faces as it recovers from two hurricanes.

The elimination of 3,000 jobs, which Nagin described as "pretty permanent," is expected to save the hard-hit city $5 million to $8 million a month. New Orleans now pays about $20 million a month in salaries for city workers, Nagin said.

He said the city was not considering bankruptcy, at least for now. "We can limp along for another month or two," he told a news conference. "Beyond two months we'll be talking again." With virtually all businesses closed the city's tax revenues have dried up.

Eighty percent of the low-lying city was flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina broke through levees and flood walls at the end of August. Hurricane Rita, which struck the Louisiana-Texas border on September 24, caused new flooding that still persists in some areas.

Many smaller communities were also devastated as the storms struck Mississippi, Lousiana and Texas. Katrina, which caused over $34 billion in insured property damage alone, killed nearly 1,200 people and was the most expensive hurricane ever to hit the United States.

"We've been mired in the bureaucratic red tape since the beginning. The more you talk about what needs to be done, the blinder and deafer people become," said Robert Warner, 51, who was first evacuated to Lake Charles, Louisiana, after Katrina and then to Baton Rouge after Rita.

New Orleans was home to nearly half a million people before Katrina, but only a few thousand now live there and state and local officials also have complained that Federal Emergency Management Agency aid has been arriving too slowly.

On Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton urged the U.S. government to move relief experts out of Washington and into Louisiana and other states hit by the hurricanes to clear red tape for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

"The volume of need is greater and you need to move money through more quickly, but this (volume) actually slows it down," he said, during a fact-finding visit to Baton Rouge to decide how to spend the $100 million raised by the private Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

 

SLOWLY COMING BACK

New Orleans has been slowly coming back from the double hurricane blow.

Nagin said nearly every neighborhood would be open on Wednesday for residents to return and view their homes. Only parts of the poor, mostly black 9th Ward that suffered the worst damage will stay closed.

"You can come in, look and leave, as long as you abide by the curfew," he told a news conference. The city is keeping everyone off the streets from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily.

The insurance industry said Tuesday that insured losses from Katrina property damage had reached $34.4 billion, far outstripping the $20.8 billion in inflation-adjusted losses from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Hurricane Rita's costs will be calculated separately.

The ISO report doesn't cover losses to utilities, agriculture or oil drilling. Flood damages also are excluded.

Losses in Louisiana totaled $22.6 billion in damages and 900,000 claims filed. "New Orleans bore the brunt of the hurricane's fury," the ISO said.

Mississippi was second with $9.8 billion and 490,000 claims, Alabama third with $1.3 billion and 123,000 claims, and Florida fourth with $468 million and 110,000 claims. Tennessee and Georgia sustained smaller damages.

Nagin had warned that many of New Orleans' nonessential jobs were at risk. He said the city had appealed to federal and state sources and local banks, but was "just not able to put together the financing necessary to maintain the City Hall staff at its current levels."

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco urged President George W. Bush to exempt the state from an executive order he issued after Katrina that allows federal contractors to pay workers lower than usual wages during the hurricane cleanup.

"Our state and our economy have already been devastated. I don't think Louisiana's workers should be given less consideration in wages than other Americans just because we have suffered a disaster," she wrote in a letter to Bush.

 

(Additional reporting by Matt Daily in New Orleans, Hilary Burke in Baton Rouge and Ed Leefeldt in New York.)

    New Orleans lays off 3,000 in sign of struggle ahead, R, 4.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-10-05T005050Z_01_KWA412654_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Upon Return,

Many Find Solace at Church

 

October 3, 2005
The New York Times
By JENNIFER MEDINA

 

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 2 - For the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit, the brass bell tolled Sunday at St. Patrick's Church to welcome to Mass a handful of worshipers, mostly residents who had recently returned to the city.

"You can call this a homecoming bell for New Orleans," Robert Ramirez said as he rang the huge bell just before 8 a.m. at the church on Camp Street, near the French Quarter. "We have good news we want to get out. We are trying to get up and running. The whole thing is starting to come together."

Despite the sparse attendance, Mass at St. Patrick's was among the signs that life was returning to near normality in some areas of New Orleans. Thousands of residents who had fled Hurricane Katrina began returning to the area this weekend, most of them to homes relatively unscathed.

At St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes offered Mass for the first time since the storm hit more than a month ago. The overflowing crowd included hundreds of local worshipers as well as police officers, members of the National Guard and dozens of other rescue workers.

"Some of us still suffer from shock, from fear, from devastation, from depression, from anger," Archbishop Hughes said. "But that is not the last word," he added. "We in New Orleans are a people of faith."

News cameras crowded around the church, annoying some of the residents who had come seeking solace. A sign that prohibited taking photographs during Mass was ignored for the day.

"I just want to hear the Word and go home," said Larry Bastian, 38, who moved to a new apartment after his home in New Orleans East was destroyed. "I have a job here, but no family, no friends. They are all gone. So here I am, tired and lonely."

At St. Patrick's, parishioners embraced, relieved to see friends they had not heard from in weeks. They exchanged stories of traveling to safety and returning to varying degrees of destruction. They all wondered whether their church would ever have as many worshipers as it did before the hurricane.

"All of September, we missed all of September," said Kathy Jordan, 57, shaking her head as she thought about the last time she attended Mass at St. Patrick's.

Ms. Jordan's home in Belle Chasse had some roof damage; her nieces' and sisters' were destroyed. "Even now, nobody knows what they are going to do," she said. "We just get back and try to start all over."

A revised re-entry plan for New Orleans allowed about 200,000 residents to return to several parts of the city late last week, and more people returned to homes in the surrounding areas. Highways exits opened, supermarkets restocked their shelves, and restaurants began serving food.

There is no way to know just how many residents returned to New Orleans. But if the weekend was any guide, they are likely to return slowly, not en masse.

Checkpoints were not choked, though steady traffic continued on highways and several city streets. Several residents were simply looking at their homes and then at the city in the rearview mirror, heading back to wherever they had found a place to stay. Others were determined to settle in, even with undrinkable water and spotty electricity.

"It's messy, real messy," said Althea Williams, who returned Saturday to her home with major roof damage after staying with family in North Carolina for nearly a month. "And if you can't drink the water, I'm not going to bathe in it. But I have to be here. I have a job here and a life here."

Others wondered if they would stick to their plans to stay.

On the Sunday before the storm hit, Ann and Ed Moll headed to Baton Rouge. Ms. Moll could easily list the things she missed about the city; elaborate Sunday brunches, late afternoon sips of vodka and the traditional Mass at St. Patrick's topped the list.

"With all that, you can't get me to leave here," she said. "This is where we know how to worship and have fun. Everything in its place."

Then she stopped. "It feels good to be home," she said, "real good."

Ms. Moll will stay in the city, returning to her job as a nurse, though with reduced hours. Mr. Moll will remain in Baton Rouge to work. In case their rebuilding plans here fail, they have bought a plot of land in Baton Rouge.

"There are so many uncertainties," said Ms. Moll, 50, who returned to a relatively unscathed home in Algiers. "Even if you have a house to come back to, you don't know what will happen with insurance and your job and your family."

Mr. Moll wondered aloud: "What happens to the friends we still don't see here? You have people all over the country, and now we may never see them again."

    Upon Return, Many Find Solace at Church, NYT, 3.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/03/national/nationalspecial/03scene.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans cathedral

welcomes emotional flock

 

Sun Oct 2, 2005 5:30 PM ET
Reuters
By Nichola Groom and Matt Daily

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Residents and rescue workers in hurricane-battered New Orleans flocked to historic St. Louis Cathedral on Sunday, finding solace in a church service, while others wondered how they would ever be able to rebuild their lives.

"I was so sad, so happy, and so thankful at the same time," said a crying Babs Wood, 56, a piano player at Pat O'Brien's pub and one of the hundreds attending the first Sunday service at the cathedral in a month.

The giant spires of the white edifice, which is the oldest active cathedral in the United States, tower over Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Its ornate stained glass windows appeared undamaged by the 150 mph (240 kph) winds that devastated the Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the region on August 29.

Lt. Col. Robert Guy of the Army National Guard said the mass held by Archbishop Alfred Hughes had inspired him, especially as the city began showing signs of life.

"It's been very satisfying to see (considering) what the state of the city was two or three weeks ago," he said.

Thousands of residents have been streaming back in recent days and restrictions limiting access will be lifted by mid-week for virtually every neighborhood, except the 9th Ward, which suffered the worst flooding.

Parts of that section still remain flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Rita two weeks ago topped partially restored flood walls first ravaged by Katrina.

 

MONTHS OF WORK AHEAD

One resident of the poor, mostly black neighborhood said he had told family members who evacuated to Texas it would be years before the area would be habitable.

"They want to come back but I told them there's nothing salvageable," said Shawn Smith, who escaped the water that surged into his neighborhood in a canoe.

Other residents faced the prospect of months of work to make their homes livable.

"There are holes in the walls where rats came through. There's rat turds everywhere. It smells, it's toxic," said Grace Callahan, 22, of her apartment in the Mid-City neighborhood.

Others had found refuge in temporary housing elsewhere as they tried to restore normalcy to their lives.

Vicki LaBostrie and her husband have been living in a trailer in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, a two-hour drive from the New Orleans hospital where she works as a nurse.

Her 7th Ward house will require significant work and she felt overwhelmed at the thought, LaBostrie said.

"There's mud on the ground and mold on everything," LaBostrie said. "I really want to sit in the country and not do anything and not think of it."

Kenny Walter, 34, fled his home in Chalmette, just outside New Orleans, when Katrina struck and he had to evacuate again when Hurricane Rita hit less than a month later.

A commercial crab fisherman, Walter said he's still waiting for Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors to verify his home's damage and approve him for aid. He has gone back but he said there was nothing salvageable.

"I couldn't even get no crab traps, they were all smashed up. And my boat was on my neighbor's house next door," Walter said.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, more than 3,000 people trying to rebuild their lives were expected to pass through a makeshift disaster relief center on Sunday to receive Red Cross debit cards, which are worth up to $1,565 for a family of five. The Red Cross began distributing the cards on Friday with about 4,500 people going through the center the first two days.

Some residents -- and the hordes of contractors and relief workers still in the city -- sought out the historic French Quarter on Saturday night, and the party mood on Bourbon Street was clearly returning.

The Tropical Isles bar reopened, and was hawking its "famous hand grenades," a drink served in a neon-colored plastic vessel shaped like a hand grenade with a big tube sprouting upward.

"It has every alcohol imaginable in it. The only thing missing is the guy dressed up as a hand grenade," said Liz Davis, 45, a medical technician who works near New Orleans.

(Additional reporting by Hilary Burke)

    New Orleans cathedral welcomes emotional flock, R, 2.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-10-02T212913Z_01_FOR766548_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana officials

search Memorial campus

 

Sun Oct 2, 2005 7:32 PM ET
Reuters

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tenet Healthcare Corp. on Sunday said representatives of the Louisiana Attorney General's office delivered a search warrant and removed files from the company's Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans, where 34 patients died during Hurricane Katrina.

Tenet, a hospital and health care center operator, said Louisiana officials removed certain records from Memorial and from an independently owned facility on the same campus that is managed by LifeCare Holdings Inc.

Tenet said the company believes as many 11 patients on the Memorial campus died before the hurricane but could not be removed before the storm hit.

Representatives of the Louisiana Attorney General's Office searched the campus on Saturday, Tenet said. The campus has a 317-bed hospital that has been closed since Katrina battered the region in late August.

The company has said it believes 24 of the patients who died on the campus were under the care of LifeCare Holdings and that these patients were seriously ill.

Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area on August 29, causing widespread damage and flooding. Louisiana officials have put the state's death toll from the hurricane at more than 800.

Tenet has also said that when the hospital was finally evacuated, no patient alive was left behind, and that none drowned or died from a lack of food or drinking water.

    Louisiana officials search Memorial campus, R, 2.10.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-10-02T233241Z_01_WRI284206_RTRUKOC_0_US-TENET-HURRICANE.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Prisoners Evacuated

After Hurricanes Allege Abuse

 

The New York Times
October 2, 2005
By DAVID ROHDE and CHRISTOPHER DREW

 

Lawyers for inmates in Louisiana say that prison guards have abused some of the nearly 8,000 prisoners who were evacuated from flooded jails in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina.

The allegations are contained in affidavits filed by lawyers who have interviewed thousands of inmates in recent weeks. The complaints include accusations that some guards left prisoners locked in their cells while floodwaters rose to their necks, and that others engaged in regular beatings and other abuse.

The lawyers also estimate that as many as 2,000 people arrested for minor crimes just before the hurricane are still in prison five weeks later. They said that under normal circumstances, such low-level offenders would have seen a judge and been released within days. State and local officials say flooding has destroyed much of the court system and legal records in New Orleans.

On Friday, lawyers for the inmates filed papers requesting that the federal Department of Justice immediately seize control of a temporary holding facility in Jena, La., where more than two dozen inmates have complained of beatings, racial slurs and sexual taunts.

"We were concerned about stopping them from being abused," said Phyllis E. Mann, a Louisiana defense lawyer who led the effort to interview prisoners and who filed the papers. "We've had no response."

Officials from the Justice Department did not respond to a call requesting comment.

Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said the department had received no complaints of abuse at the Jena facility. Ms. Laborde said all prisoners had been evacuated safely from jails affected by the floods. But she said her department would send a team on Monday to investigate the reported beatings there.

Ms. Laborde said in a statement that tactical teams of corrections officers responded to a disturbance at Jena on Sept. 2 and that 60 inmates were removed from the facility. She said there were no reports of significant injuries to prisoners.

Lawyers said that interviews with the 450 prisoners in Jena produced complaints that guards had been beating them, stripping them naked and hitting them with belts, shaving their heads, threatening them with dogs, shocking them with stun guns and assaulting them after they attempted to report the abuse.

The inmates said prison guards from Louisiana, as well as New York City corrections officers sent to the area after the hurricane, had participated in the abuse.

"I'm afraid for my safety," read one handwritten note that lawyers say was smuggled to them last week by a Jena prisoner. "It's going to be worse when y'all leave. I was beaten 9-28-05."

Thomas Antenen, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction, said that 10 corrections officers from the city were working in Jena but that no officers had reported problems there.

"All the reports have been positive," Mr. Antenen said. "I seriously doubt any of our personnel would be involved in that type of behavior."

But the lawyers reported systematic abuse in their legal filings. One of the lawyers, Christine Lehmann, said she had interviewed 38 inmates held in Jena.

"Of the inmates I interviewed, almost all said that they had been physically abused themselves or had seen others physically abused," Ms. Lehmann wrote in her affidavit. "Apparently the guards were particularly fond of dragging inmates out of their beds or pods (often by the hair) and beating them, often by slamming their heads repeatedly into the floor or the wall."

Guards used racial slurs, forced prisoners to get up on tables and "hop like bunnies" and threatened to force them to perform sex acts on guards, the affidavits said. The lawyers said that prisoners showed bruises, cuts and chipped teeth that were consistent with their accounts of beatings.

Prisoners confirmed that there had been a disturbance in the prison in early September. They said that the initial response had been heavy-handed, with guards forcing prisoners to lie naked, face down on the floor for five hours, and that brutal treatment continued for weeks.

Rachel Jones, one of the 30 lawyers who conducted the interviews, said that far more reports of abuse emerged from Jena than from the other 40 facilities in Louisiana that received evacuated prisoners.

"I did not hear anything even closely approximating the extreme levels of abuse and sadism that I heard at Jena," Ms. Jones wrote in her affidavit. "The inmates I spoke to repeatedly expressed that they were 'terrified' and 'scared for their lives' inside Jena."

The Jena facility is a former juvenile detention center that was closed in 2000 after a federal investigation found systematic abuse there. It was reopened to house prisoners evacuated from southeastern Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The jail is being operated by a combination of Louisiana state prison guards and volunteer corrections officers from New York. Defense lawyers complained that the impromptu facility did not have standard operating procedures, including a grievance process for inmates, that might curtail abuse.

Charles Jones, a state senator and chairman of the committee on government affairs, said in an interview last night that he was asking the state police and the corrections department to investigate the allegations at the Jena facility.

Other inmates interviewed by the lawyers said that they were locked in their cells in New Orleans and abandoned by guards as floodwaters rose. Dan Bright, a 37-year-old construction worker, said that the power went out in the Templeman III jail, where he was held after being arrested for public drunkenness and resisting arrest just before the storm.

Mr. Bright said that guards ordered prisoners into their cells, locked the doors and then left the facility. After power went out on the day of the storm, floodwaters then began to gradually fill his cell, eventually reaching up to his neck.

"Just imagine, you're in your cell, the light's out and the water was rising," he said. "The deputies were nowhere to be found. They completely abandoned us."

Mr. Bright said that when the floodwaters stopped rising, he and other prisoners remained in their cells for 24 hours, perched on top bunks or standing in the water. Prisoners who freed themselves from cells on upper levels were ultimately able to pry some cell doors off their hinges, he said. He said that when he left the jail four inmates were still stuck inside their cells.

In a report released last week, Human Rights Watch said they feared that some prisoners might have drowned in their cells and called for an investigation into whether prisoners were abandoned. The group said that as many 300 prisoners may be missing from city jails, but it is unclear whether they are somewhere in the state prison system, have escaped or have died. Ms. Mann, the lawyer who coordinated the interviews with prisoners, said prisoners reported being trapped in their cells, but none reported seeing prisoners drown.

Marlin N. Gusman, the Orleans Parish criminal sheriff who is in charge of the jails, said none of the 6,000 inmates died and "none was abandoned." But he acknowledged that it took three days to evacuate all the inmates, who were initially ferried by three small boats to a nearby overpass.

Sheriff Gusman said it "would have been impossible" to evacuate so many inmates as the storm approached. He said that most of the inmates were evacuated by the Wednesday after the storm. But then deputies realized that 100 were still left in the upper stories of another building, he said, and they were rescued on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch has complained that the sheriff did not move inmates to state facilities before the storm, as some parishes did, or have a plan to deal with rising floodwaters.

Quantonio Williams, 31, an assistant office manager who had been arrested just before the storm and charged with marijuana possession, said guards locked him in his cell when floodwaters reached knee level in the jail where he was held in New Orleans.

Mr. Williams said the water rose to his chest before prisoners took over a control room and freed themselves.

He complained that during the subsequent evacuation, guards drank water for themselves but gave none to prisoners, who sat in open sun or on buses. When he finally arrived at a state prison in St. Gabriel , La., Mr. Williams said, hundreds of prisoners were placed in a field, were tossed sandwiches over a fence and were forced to go to the bathroom in the field.

Ms. Laborde said that the important factor was that no prisoners died during a storm that killed hundreds. "We were there for transportation and to save lives," she said.

    Prisoners Evacuated After Hurricanes Allege Abuse, NYT, 2.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/national/nationalspecial/02jail.html

 

 

 

 

 

Stumbling Storm-Aid Effort

Put Tons of Ice on Trips to Nowhere

 

October 2, 2005
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LIPTON

 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 - When the definitive story of the confrontation between Hurricane Katrina and the United States government is finally told, one long and tragicomic chapter will have to be reserved for the odyssey of the ice.

Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes, that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm. It would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it would never be delivered.

The somewhat befuddled heroes of the tale will be truckers like Mark Kostinec, who was dropping a load of beef in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 2 when his dispatcher called with an urgent government job: Pick up 20 tons of ice in Greenville, Pa., and take it to Carthage, Mo., a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Kostinec, 40, a driver for Universe Truck Lines of Omaha, was happy to help with the crisis. But at Carthage, instead of unloading, he was told to take his 2,000 bags of ice on to Montgomery, Ala.

After a day and a half in Montgomery, he was sent to Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. From there, on Sept. 8, he was waved onward to Selma, Ala. And after two days in Selma he was redirected to Emporia, Va., along with scores of other frustrated drivers who had been following similarly circuitous routes.

At Emporia, Mr. Kostinec sat for an entire week, his trailer burning fuel around the clock to keep the ice frozen, as FEMA officials studied whether supplies originally purchased for Hurricane Katrina might be used for Hurricane Ophelia. But in the end only 3 of about 150 ice trucks were sent to North Carolina, he said. So on Sept. 17, Mr. Kostinec headed to Fremont, Neb., where he unloaded his ice into a government-rented storage freezer the next day.

"I dragged that ice around for 4,100 miles, and it never got used," Mr. Kostinec said. A former mortgage broker and Enron computer technician, he had learned to roll with the punches, and he was pleased to earn $4,500 for the trip, double his usual paycheck. He was perplexed, however, by the government's apparent bungling.

"They didn't seem to know how much ice they were buying and how much they were using," he said. "All the truckers said the money was good. But we were upset about not being able to help."

In the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Kostinec's government-ordered meandering was not unusual. Partly because of the mass evacuation forced by Hurricane Katrina, and partly because of what an inspector general's report this week called a broken system for tracking goods at FEMA, the agency ordered far more ice than could be distributed to people who needed it.

Over about a week after the storm, FEMA ordered 211 million pounds of ice for Hurricane Katrina, said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, which buys the ice that FEMA requests under a contract with IAP Worldwide Services of Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Officials eventually realized that that much ice was overkill, and managed to cancel some of the orders. But the 182 million pounds actually supplied turned out to be far more than could be delivered to victims.

In the end, Mr. Holland said, 59 percent of the ice was trucked to storage freezers all over the country to await the next disaster; some has been used for Hurricane Rita.

Of $200 million originally set aside for ice purchases, the bill for the Hurricane Katrina purchases so far is more than $100 million - and climbing, Mr. Holland said. Under the ice contract, the government pays about $12,000 to buy a 20-ton truckload of ice, delivered to its original destination. If it is moved farther, the price is $2.60 a mile, and a day of waiting costs up to $900, Mr. Holland said.

Those numbers add up fast, and reports like Mr. Kostinec's have stirred concern on Capitol Hill, as more wearying evidence of the federal government's incoherent response to the catastrophe.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, expressed astonishment that many truckloads of ice had ended up in storage 1,600 miles from the Hurricane Katrina damage zone in her state, apparently because the storage contractor, AmeriCold Logistics, had run out of space farther south.

"The American taxpayers, and especially the Katrina victims, cannot endure this kind of wasteful spending," Ms. Collins said.

Asked about trips like Mr. Kostinec's, Nicol Andrews, a FEMA spokeswoman, said: "He was put on call for a need and the need was not realized, so he went home. Any reasonable person recognizes the fact that it makes sense to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and place your resources where they may be needed."

Unlike an ordinary hurricane, which may leave a large population in still-habitable housing but without power for days or weeks, Hurricane Katrina destroyed neighborhoods and led to unprecedented evacuation, Ms. Andrews said.

"The population we ordered the ice for had been dispersed," she said, "which is good, because they are out of harm's way."

Ms. Andrews said FEMA realized it must improve its monitoring of essential items. The new report by the homeland security inspector general says that after last year's hurricanes million of dollars of ice was left unused in Florida because FEMA had "no automated way to coordinate quantities of commodities with the people available to accept and distribute them."

Ms. Andrews said, "There are programs in the works that will help us better track commodities, not just ice, but water and tarps and food." One system would use bar codes and a global positioning system, "so literally we will know exactly where every bag of ice is."

Some people, including Michael D. Brown, the former FEMA director, have questioned why the agency spends so much money moving ice.

"I feebly attempted to get FEMA out of the business of ice," Mr. Brown told a House panel this week. "I don't think that's a federal government responsibility to provide ice to keep my hamburger meat in my freezer or refrigerator fresh."

But ice, even Mr. Brown agreed, at times plays a critical role, like helping keep patients alive at places like Meadowcrest Hospital, in Gretna, La. After the hurricane hit, the air-conditioning went out and temperatures inside climbed into the 90's.

"Physicians and staff attempted to cool patients by placing ice in front of fans," Phillip Sowa, the hospital's chief executive, wrote in an online account of the ordeal.

Archie Harris, a Wilmington, N.C., ice merchant who serves as disaster preparedness chairman for the International Packaged Ice Association, said that while FEMA had been criticized mostly as being underprepared, on the ice question it was being criticized for being overprepared. "FEMA can't win right now," Mr. Harris said. "Can you imagine what people would say if they'd run out of ice?"

Not all of the ice delivery trips, by an estimated 4,000 drivers, ended in frustration. Mike Snyder, a truck driver from Berwick, Pa., took an excruciating journey that started in Allentown, Pa., on Sept. 16 and did not end until two weeks later, on Friday morning, when he arrived in Tarkington Prairie, Tex.

The electricity was out in the small community. When Mr. Snyder pulled up in front of a local church and unloaded his ice, residents were overjoyed to see him. "I felt like I did a lot of good," he said.

Truck drivers who pinballed around the country felt differently.

Having almost lost his Florida home to a hurricane last year, Jeff Henderson was eager to help when he heard that FEMA needed truckers to carry ice. He drove at his own expense to Wisconsin to collect a 20-ton load and delivered it to the Carthage staging area.

Then he, too, was sent across the South: Meridian, Miss.; Selma; and finally Memphis, where he waited five days and then delivered his ice to storage.

"I can't understand what happened," Mr. Henderson said. "The government's the only customer that plays around like that."

Mike Hohnstein, a dispatcher in Omaha, sent a truckload out of Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian. From there, the driver was sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, to Columbia, S.C., and finally to Cumberland, Md., where he bought a lawn chair and waited for six days.

Finally, 10 days after he started, the driver was told to take the ice to storage in Bettendorf, Iowa, Mr. Hohnstein said. The truck had traveled 3,282 miles, but not a cube of ice had reached a hurricane victim.

"Well," Mr. Hohnstein said, "the driver got to see the country."

His company's bill to the government will exceed $15,000, he said, but the ice was worth less than $5,000. "It seemed like an incredible waste of money," he said.

The next time FEMA calls for help, it may find the response far less willing. After two Universe Truck Lines drivers spent more than two weeks on the road to no purpose, the company decided it had had enough. When a FEMA contractor called and asked if the company could take some ice stored in Fremont, Neb., to Fort Worth, Tex., Universe said no.

"Our trucks had been tied up for 17 days," Sean Smal, a Universe dispatcher, said. "We couldn't take another trip like those."

    Stumbling Storm-Aid Effort Put Tons of Ice on Trips to Nowhere, NYT, 2.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/national/nationalspecial/02ice.html

 

 

 

 

 

History of Corruption in Louisiana

Stirs Fears That Aid Will Go Astray

 

October 1, 2005
The New York Times
By PETER APPLEBOME and JEREMY ALFORD

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 27 - There are plenty of reasons that, after two hurricanes, Louisiana is viewing the coming intersection of the state's politicians and billions of dollars in federal relief aid with almost as much fear as hope. For starters, there is this:

Nine months before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, three emergency preparedness officials from Louisiana were indicted, accused of obstruction and lying in connection with the mishandling of $30.4 million in disaster relief money. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has tried unsuccessfully to recover the money after an investigation of a program to buy out homeowners in flood-prone areas.

Among other problems, federal inspectors said, nearly half a million dollars had been inappropriately spent on items like a trip to Germany, professional dues, computer equipment and a Ford Crown Victoria.

That $30 million is pocket change compared with perhaps $200 billion in federal money anticipated for rebuilding the Gulf Coast. But as New Orleans gets back to the gargantuan task of trying to become a functioning city again, Louisiana residents - tired, angry and scared after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - seem every bit as aware of the state's history of corruption and incompetence as of its catastrophic meteorology.

Griping about government is the national pastime, and nature, not man, caused the storms. But the essential thing to remember as rebuilding New Orleans proceeds is that perhaps no other state has as eccentric and problematic a political culture as Louisiana.

This, after all, is the state where supporters produced bumper stickers reading "Vote for the Crook. It's Important" to urge a hold-your-nose vote for Edwin W. Edwards for governor in 1991 against the former Klansman David Duke. (Both eventually ended up in prison). It is a place that the author A. J. Liebling described as America's answer to Lebanon, where the chapter on Louisiana in V. O. Key Jr.'s classic book, "Southern Politics in State and Nation," was entitled simply "The Seamy Side of Democracy."

Unlike, for example, the serial hurricanes that hit Florida last year, Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding process that will follow are being viewed as being about politics and governing almost as much as about wind and rain.

People are skeptical enough that when Juan Parke, a computer consultant awaiting Hurricane Rita last week at a bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, was asked about how the state would make use of anticipated federal aid, he shrugged and said, "I do believe there's going to be a certain amount of inefficiency and a certain amount of corruption, but even thieves can only use two hands at a time, so there's going to be enough money to make it through to do some good."

Much has changed since the days of Huey and Earl Long and the heyday of Louisiana as political burlesque, and the state's most prominent current officials have not been touched by scandal. But when the theme in Baton Rouge for the 2003 Spanish Town Mardi Gras, an annual blend of merriment and political satire, was "Louisiana Purchase: Name Your Price," one did not need to be an expert on state politics to get the joke.

Several recent state officials, in fact, have spent time behind bars. Mr. Edwards is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for extorting money from applicants for riverboat casino licenses. Jerry Fowler, a former elections commissioner, recently served a four-year bribery sentence; and Jim Brown, a former insurance commissioner, was released from a federal prison in 2003 after becoming the third insurance commissioner in a row to go to prison.

And the officials charged last fall, including two senior employees of the State Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, had roles directly related to preventing floods. Michael L. Brown, charged with conspiracy to obstruct a federal audit, was in charge of the state's Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program, which conducts projects to prevent flood losses. Michael C. Appe, also charged with conspiracy, was responsible for the program's finances. Both men pleaded not guilty, and were placed on leave.

A federal audit found that the program had improperly spent money and had not properly accounted for its federal grants. The audit quoted one unnamed state official as saying that the state did not know how to properly allocate federal dollars. "We treat it all as one big general fund," the official told the auditors. "If we don't spend it, they will take it back."

That kind of attitude toward federal procedures may not inspire confidence as billions of dollars head their way to Louisiana. As it is, the state's chronic underfinancing of services, its poor educational system and a low-wage job base have led to frequent complaints that Louisiana resembles a third world nation.

Also unchanged is its eternal ethnic divide, roughly split among blacks, Protestant whites and Roman Catholic Cajuns - and between New Orleans and everywhere else - that has largely focused state politics on cobbling together alliances of self-interest rather than appealing to the greater good. All of those factors will complicate the rebuilding.

State residents, for the most, have veered between seeing politics as entertainment and train wreck, but these days the humor value may be at low ebb. So when Matthew McCann offered his suggestions for rebuilding New Orleans recently in a letter to The Times-Picayune, he spoke for many others when he concluded: "In my 20 years in New Orleans, all I have seen is chicanery, shenanigans, greed and graft. This has got to change."

Of course, many people do not want to see the federal government let off the hook either.

Doug Barden, a bartender at Harrah's casino in New Orleans, said a lack of federal support over 30 years and funding cuts to pay for the Iraq war, not the decisions of local officials, had left city levees vulnerable.

John Maginnis, a journalist, author and editor of a statewide political newsletter, said that Louisiana's reputation for bad behavior had outstripped its reality, and that whatever flaws one could see in its current leading players - Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Senators Mary L. Landrieu and David Vitter, and Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans - none had been the subject of major ethical issues.

Mr. Maginnis said state leaders were racing to propose ethical safeguards, like Mr. Vitter's call for President Bush to appoint an independent, nonpolitical commission to oversee the spending. If nothing else, such a commission would better position the state in what is already becoming a competition for federal money with Mississippi. (The fear of losing money to other states probably exceeds the fear of improperly spending it.)

At the same time, other Louisiana politicians are fuming that aid to the state will be unnecessarily slowed.

"That is not how we're going to get our economy and community back," said Representative Charlie Melancon, a Democrat who represents a large part of Louisiana's hardest-hit area. "It just frustrates the living hell out of me that everybody thinks they know what's right. People in New York are telling us what to do. It's like we're some breed that's different from the rest of the country. I'm tired of it."

Still, however much the state may have progressed, even its own residents often do not see it. A study this year by the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University found that 66 percent of respondents said they believed Louisiana was just as corrupt as it ever was and might even be more corrupt today.

And almost everyone agrees that this moment will test Louisiana's political resolve, not just in terms of integrity but also in areas of social equity and concern for the poor, as painful decisions are made about which areas will be rebuilt and which will not. Particularly problematic will be how and whether to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, poor, black, flooded and reflooded but home to 40,000 people, along with equally devastated portions of the largely white St. Bernard Parish just to the east.

"For Louisiana, this is the moment that will forever tell us who we are," Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonpartisan nonprofit group that monitors state government. "Are we at a point where we can rise to the occasion and rebuild our state? Or, will we squander this opportunity to make the most of a horrible situation?

"We have no choice - we have to get this right."

    History of Corruption in Louisiana Stirs Fears That Aid Will Go Astray, NYT, 1.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/01/national/nationalspecial/01corrupt.html

 

 

 

 

 

Accounts

of N.Orleans violence questioned

 

Fri Sep 30, 2005 2:18 PM ET
Reuters
By Daisuke Wakabayashi

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Horrific tales of murder, rape and gang violence emerged from the New Orleans Convention Center and Superdome where survivors from Hurricane Katrina took refuge from floods that devastated the city.

But a month later officials said those stories seem to be exaggerated accounts derived from a chaotic situation, created by uncertainty and paranoia and then escalated by the media and New Orleans officials desperate for help.

Without electricity or basic supplies to sustain the tens of thousands of evacuees, conditions in the shelters soon spiraled out of control, with the Louisiana National Guard vastly outnumbered by those fleeing the floods.

"It was horrible. There was trash everywhere. There were people everywhere. So hot. So filthy. And people at their most desperate," said Maj. Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard, who entered the Superdome the night Katrina made landfall on August 29.

"Certainly, it was kind of believable and it was the setting for that kind of behavior. It just festered and it never went away."

Bush admits there were "bad dudes" inside the Superdome and there was evidence of violence as the situation worsened, but neither he nor the military police officers who constantly patrolled the cavernous building found evidence of mass murder and rape.

Despite reports of a freezer containing 30 to 40 corpses, the official combined death toll from the Superdome and Convention Center was 10, according to state officials. Of those deaths, two were believed to have been murders.

"That suggests to me that the claims that there were lots of killings at the two major shelters were exaggerated," New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan told CNN.

Possibly the most gruesome story of a little girl gang-raped then murdered in the Superdome appears to be untrue. Jordan said there had been no reports of rape, while coroners have not found a young girl's body in the sports stadium.

As of Friday, Katrina-related deaths in Louisiana, including those in the city of New Orleans, totaled 932.

 

MAYOR FUELS MYTHS

Bush, who spent eight days in the Superdome, said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and former Police Chief Eddie Compass had not helped matters by repeating reports of killings and rape to national media.

"There were people who made statements to the press representing New Orleans and Louisiana who really didn't know what the facts were. I think they were trying to paint a very very grim picture to get help here," said Bush.

When evacuees heard the mayor's comments and other media reports over the radio, it only made matters worse inside the Superdome and the Convention Center, he said.

Mayor Nagin, who has come under fire for not ordering the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans early enough, did not back down from his comments.

"I was in the moment. When I talked to people in the Superdome, I was getting a much different story," Nagin told reporters earlier this week.

The media has also been criticized for playing a role in spreading stories based on hearsay, but some media analysts disagree.

"I do not think the media was irresponsible, because they had sources as high as the New Orleans police chief and the mayor. In fact, it would have been irresponsible not to report it," said David Rubin, dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

    Accounts of N.Orleans violence questioned, R, 30.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-30T181722Z_01_SPI065633_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES-VIOLENCE.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Consumer spending falls,

inflation rises

 

Fri Sep 30, 2005
11:38 AM ET
Reuters
By Richard Leong

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. August consumer spending and income fell, partly due to Hurricane Katrina, and inflation edged up amid record oil prices, bolstering expectations the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates.

U.S. manufacturers outside areas affected by Katrina -- like in the Midwest and New York -- reported improvements in September on higher demand, based on a pair of regional factory surveys.

On the consumer front, spending fell an unexpectedly steep 0.5 percent in August, the biggest drop since November 2001, the Commerce Department in a report on Friday that also showed a surprise decline in income potentially caused by Katrina.

The fall in spending came as energy prices pushed consumer inflation up 0.5 percent, the largest jump since September 1990, the Commerce Department said.

Outside volatile food and energy costs, inflation as measured by the Fed's favorite gauge edged up 0.2 percent. Over the past year, so-called core inflation has climbed 2 percent, a tick faster than in the 12 months through July.

Wall Street economists had expected personal income to rise 0.3 percent and had forecast a smaller drop of 0.3 percent in spending. In addition, they had expected core inflation to edge up only 0.1 percent.

"It's not all that encouraging for the Fed," said Anthony Chan, senior economist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in Columbus, Ohio.

 

MANUFACTURING REBOUNDS OUTSIDE U.S. GULF

The Chicago purchasing managers index rose sharply to 60.5 in September after August's 49.2, its lowest reading since April 2003. This meant the Midwest's factory sector moved back to expansion mode after a temporary contraction in August, because an index level of 50 is seen as the threshold.

Economists on average had forecast the Chicago PMI index edging up to 51.00.

"One cannot deny that Katrina ironically may have had a positive effect on this index because of the big surge in orders," said Cary Leahey, senior managing director at Decision Economics in New York.

Massive government expenditures for the rebuilding of regions affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will likely boost manufacturing in the coming months, Leahey said.

The National Association of Purchasing Management-New York said its business conditions index rose for a third consecutive month to 349.7 in September, its highest level in at least eight years.

Data showing higher U.S. inflation and slower consumer spending hurt both stocks and bonds, while a rebound in regional factory activity boosted the dollar.

Based on U.S. interest-rate futures, the market has fully priced in a quarter percentage point rate hike by the Fed at its November policy meeting, which would push the key fed funds rate to 4.00 percent. The latest data also boosted the market's expectations of another quarter point rate rise in December.

Last week, the Fed raised the fed funds rate a quarter point for the 11th time since June 2004 to 3.75 percent.

 

KATRINA HIT CONSUMERS

Katrina, likely the costliest U.S. storm ever, hammered U.S. consumer confidence -- a proxy on future retail spending -- to their lowest level in 13 years, according to one survey.

The University of Michigan's consumer confidence index finished September at 76.9, unchanged from the initial reading in early September. Economists had predicted the consumer index to end at 78.00 against August's final reading of 89.10.

The Commerce Department said income in August decreased 0.1 percent as rental and proprietors' income fell. Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast on August 29, likely shaved those two measures by a combined $100 billion annualized due to uninsured property losses, it said.

But the hit to income was offset to the tune of $70 billion as insurance benefit payments rose in the storm's wake.

The Fed said the hit to economic growth from Katrina was likely to be temporary and that higher energy prices could add to inflation pressures.

Although spending proved weaker than expected in August as auto purchases plummeted, the decline followed two months in which consumers spent freely and economists said the fall was not particularly troubling.

The spending decline pushed up the saving rate, the percentage of disposable income saved, to negative 0.7 percent from July's record low of minus 1.1 percent. A negative saving rate shows U.S. consumers eating into their accumulated wealth to spend.

(Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Chris Reese, Amanda Cooper, Ros Krasny)

    Consumer spending falls, inflation rises, R, 30.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2005-09-30T153841Z_01_EIC047753_RTRUKOC_0_US-ECONOMY.xml

 

 

 

 

 

A Police Department

Racked by Doubt and Accusations

 

September 30, 2005
The New York Times
By DAN BARRY
and JERE LONGMAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 29 - They spend their shifts patrolling neighborhoods largely devoid of the people they have sworn to serve and protect. Then many of them collapse in tiny cabins on a cruise ship docked on the Mississippi River, their own homes unlivable, their own families elsewhere, their own reputations in question.

The 1,400-plus active city police officers left to protect this gutted metropolis now serve in a department at a low point in its already checkered history, at a time when rebuilding the police force is essential to rebuilding New Orleans. The department struggled to maintain order in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, its superintendent resigned this week, and Thursday its acting superintendent announced the suspension or reassignment of five officers suspected of looting or standing by as looting occurred.

Now, as orderliness returns gradually to the city, the adrenaline that kept many police officers going is morphing into weary doubt about their colleagues. An estimated 250 members of the Police Department - about one-sixth of its active members - abandoned their jobs during the hurricane and flooding, raising questions about their dedication and honesty.

The officers who remained are now wrestling with wisps of rumor and the pain of truth. Some of their colleagues deserted when they should have served, and perhaps even looted when they should have protected. Many who fled have returned to duty, but their presence today does not necessarily mean that yesterday is forgotten, no matter how legitimate their excuse for being absent.

"What do you do with the guys that left and came back?" Sgt. Bryan Lampard, of the department's vice and narcotics unit, asked Thursday. "Do you trust that guy? Who turned around when things got hot, and ran?"

And what to do about stories of officers who remained at their posts, only to steal?

Thursday afternoon, the acting police superintendent, Warren J. Riley, announced an "immediate internal investigation" of at least 12 officers during the postflooding free-for-all, including the four already suspended and one reassigned.

Superintendent Riley said he would also investigate the commandeering by some officers of more than two dozen Cadillacs from a local dealership, after the police lost the use of more than 270 of its own vehicles.

"There were some officers who actually patrolled in Cadillacs, I will tell you that," he said. "But it was done with the greatest intent."

Thursday's news conference about police looting was the latest example of a troubled department trying to find its balance. In previous decades, it had struggled with a garishly high murder rate and police officers caught in drug stings and convicted of murders. Now it is trying to right itself after a hurricane in which it lost communications, access to ammunition, and, some say, certain neighborhoods. Its response to the hurricane also led to this week's resignation of the police superintendent, Edwin P. Compass III.

If order has been restored, normality has not. Because police headquarters was damaged during the flooding of downtown, the department is temporarily based at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street, steps away from a selection of strip clubs.

To enter this new police headquarters, you dip your shoes in pans of bleach water - a modest effort to cleanse them of contamination - and walk into a marble lobby aglow with chandeliers. Turn left at the hotel's frozen-in-time marquee ("Today's Functions - August 28, 2005"), and walk past the hotel's jewelry and gift shops. "No media," a sign says.

It is from an overstuffed couch in this opulent lobby that Lt. David Benelli, the head of the department's sex crimes unit and president of the New Orleans Police Association, sought to put things in perspective. The desertion and looting by a minority of police officers, he said, have overshadowed the heroism of so many others.

He pointed to Capt. Brian Weiss and his officers, who helped to evacuate a hospital in the Bywater neighborhood; Officer Wayne Terry, who contracted an infection from the contaminated waters that nearly cost him a leg; and Capts. Tim Bayard and Robert Norton, who put together a boat rescue operation that saved many lives.

Lieutenant Benelli said that New Orleans police officers are among the lowest-paid metropolitan police officers in the country, with an average base salary of roughly $42,000. He used himself as an example: 31 years on the job, 16 years as a lieutenant, "and I make less than $50,000 base."

In addition, many officers relied on second jobs and security details at places like the Superdome to supplement their incomes. Those jobs are gone, along with homes and families. Police officials estimate that more than half the officers lost their homes.

Sergeant Lampard said that 35 of the 50 officers in the vice and narcotics unit had essentially lost everything. "They were told to bring three changes of clothes in a duffle bag," he said. "That's what most of them have."

Lieutenant Benelli emphasized that he was not suggesting that hardship and low pay justified acts of desertion and looting - acts that have undermined the trust among officers that is the glue of any police force.

"They can't trust them anymore," he said. "I don't know how welcome those officers who left because they were scared will be."

The power of rumor was evident in the makeshift headquarters. In the space of a half-hour today, reporters heard three versions of a story about dozens of police officers from one district fleeing the city and spending a night in Baton Rouge before returning.

    A Police Department Racked by Doubt and Accusations, NYT, 30.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/30/national/nationalspecial/30force.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

In New Orleans this month,

contractors walked by a city of more than 150 trailers

the government has put up at a coffee plant

 

Photograph:

Mark Lyons

for The New York Times

 

Housing for Storm's Evacuees Lagging Far Behind U.S. Goals

NYT        30.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/30/national/nationalspecial/30housing.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing for Storm's Evacuees

Lagging Far Behind U.S. Goals

 

September 30, 2005
The New York Times
By ERIC LIPTON and LESLIE EATON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - After Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, the Federal Emergency Management Agency signed contracts for more than $2 billion in temporary housing, including more than 120,000 trailers and mobile homes. But the agency has placed just 109 Louisiana families in those homes.

A month after the disaster, the federal government's temporary housing effort is stumbling.

The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that FEMA was freezing many orders for trailers, although the agency disputes that. Members of Congress, complaining that a $236 million deal to lease three ships to house evacuees was far too expensive, are calling for an investigation. And under an alternative FEMA program to give victims cash to find their own housing, 332,000 households have been approved in just a week.

Federal officials acknowledge that the installation of mobile homes has moved slowly, especially in Louisiana. But they are blaming the disruption caused by Hurricane Rita, as well as local officials in Louisiana.

"We as a federal government can't come in and just place anything anywhere," said James McIntyre, a FEMA spokesman. "This is not a takeover. We have to work within the limitations set by state and local officials."

Louisiana officials, though, have been working tirelessly to find spots for the trailers, said Kim Hunter Reed, director of policy and planning for Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

Ms. Reed described the process as too cumbersome and in need of streamlining, but said: "We are working as fast and as hard as we can to make this happen. We have thousands of people in shelters who are past ready to move."

Almost 48,000 people remain in shelters in Louisiana, according to the governor's office, and about 30,000 Louisiana citizens are in shelters in other states. For those who want to stay in Louisiana, FEMA's new cash and voucher programs are not a solution, Ms. Reed said, because there is no vacant housing.

Some housing experts say it would make sense to scrap plans for large-scale installations or even for the smaller 500-unit trailer parks the agency now envisions.

"There are a lot of problems with trailers," said Susan J. Popkin, a researcher for the Urban Institute in Washington. "You're concentrating people in the middle of nowhere, and once they're there, it's very hard for them to get out."

Especially if displaced families get relocation help and other social services, Ms. Popkin said, they would be better off moving to places with existing schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. "People's basic needs go beyond a roof," she said.

FEMA is leasing three ships from Carnival Cruise Lines and a fourth from Scotia Prince Lines; together, they can hold 8,116 people.

As of Wednesday, 3,726 people were on the ships when a census was taken, suggesting they may be less than half full. FEMA officials say that understates occupancy, because not all guests are on the ships at any given time. Based on the number of people registered to stay on the ships - most of whom are doing recovery work - FEMA officials believe the ships are more than 80 percent full and will be at capacity in a few days.

"It serves quite a big need to put people in the right location," Natalie Rule, a FEMA spokeswoman, said. "People needed to rebuild."

But the ship deal has drawn rebukes from several lawmakers, some of whom are calling for an investigation into how the Carnival contract was negotiated. The three Carnival ships are costing the government $236 million, or about $1,280 per person per week, assuming full occupancy. The Scotia Prince ferry, less luxurious, is costing $13 million, or about $500 per person a week.

"Where was the judgment?" said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.

Mr. Coburn suggested that the government could have saved money by simply sending people on a six-month cruise, as the advertised weekly rates for some Carnival cruises to the Caribbean are lower. "I don't know anybody who has experience in finance or in business who says that the price they paid is appropriate," he said.

Carnival has said that the government payments would simply replace the revenues it would have collected if it sailed its planned cruises. Four analysts who track the industry said that Carnival had negotiated a good deal, but that there were too many variables involved - including lost gambling revenues - to determine whether it would prove to be a windfall for the company.

The temporary housing FEMA has provided was made available fairly quickly in Alabama and Mississippi. Nearly 4,000 travel trailers or mobile homes are ready for occupancy in those two states, and many of them are already filled.

But progress has been much slower in Louisiana. Only 1,397 travel trailers or mobile homes have been installed, and just 109 are occupied. About 1,000 trailers have been given to businesses, like the Folger's coffee operation of Procter & Gamble, for temporary housing for workers.

Ron Albright, program manager for the Fluor Corporation of Aliso Viejo, Calif., the engineering consulting firm hired by FEMA to install the units, acknowledged that the work had gone slower than the company would like. Mr. Albright said getting approval to occupy land that has access to basic utilities and other infrastructure had been difficult.

Several big trailer parks are in the works, but FEMA is nowhere near a goal that it set earlier this month of delivering 30,000 units of housing every two weeks.

Officials from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency, said they were still committed to providing temporary housing through mobile homes and trailers. But they said they wanted to give evacuees choices.

"It may be some will voluntarily choose to go where there are jobs, and for the time being use temporary housing assistance," Ms. Rule, the FEMA spokeswoman, said. "Maybe they'll want to rebuild on their lots and they'll want to put a trailer there. We're not going to make them do it, but we're going to enable them to do it."

So, a week ago, the federal government announced it would provide two kinds of rental assistance to evacuees for up to 18 months. It can be used anywhere in the country.

Homeowners and renters are eligible for cash payments; people who had been living in federally subsidized housing are eligible for a voucher program.

Edgar O. Olsen, an economist at the University of Virginia, said that this kind of program made more sense than installing a lot of trailers, even though it might result in a steep drop in population.

"Let the individuals decide what makes most sense," Mr. Olsen said. "If it means the population of New Orleans is less, that may bother some politicians in Louisiana. It doesn't bother me in the slightest."

 

Leslie Eaton reported from New York for this article.

    Housing for Storm's Evacuees Lagging Far Behind U.S. Goals, NYT, 30.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/30/national/nationalspecial/30housing.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing for Storm's Evacuees Lagging Far Behind U.S. Goals        NYT        30.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/30/national/nationalspecial/30housing.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Levee Reconstruction Will Restore,

but Not Improve,

Defenses in New Orleans

 

September 30, 2005
The New York Times
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
and ANDREW C. REVKIN

 

The costly federal effort to rebuild New Orleans's flood defenses in time for next year's hurricane season will leave the city no less vulnerable to major storms than it was to Hurricane Katrina, engineers and other experts say.

And it will take years or decades, these experts say, to provide New Orleans and nearby communities with protection against hurricanes stronger than Hurricane Katrina, which was nowhere near the worst-case storm when it arrived. Its winds over the city and Lake Pontchartrain were apparently far below the Category 3 standard that was chosen in 1965 as the storm to defend against.

"It took us 30 years to get to a Category 3 standard," Brig. Gen. William T. Grisoli, the deputy commander of Task Force Katrina for the Army Corps of Engineers, said of the defenses in an interview. "You're not going to be at Category 5 by the next hurricane season."

Citing the 350 miles of levees in the region, General Grisoli added, "Put it in perspective: It's not going to happen."

The corps is now involved in an arduous process to restore the levees to their previous level of protection, beginning with quick patches and ending, if all goes according to schedule, just before next year's hurricane season with the levees restored to their level of strength before the storms hit.

Solutions for the longer term are not yet on the drawing boards, but experts have wide-ranging ideas that include strengthening the current levee system, finishing long-planned projects that have limped along because of court fights and tight budgets, and even reshaping the city to recognize that some of its lowest-lying areas might serve as future flood basins in the guise of parks or other undeveloped land.

For now, the Corps of Engineers acknowledges that with two months left in this year's hurricane season, New Orleans is without any defense against a major storm. Its patched levees can barely withstand a modest storm surge, and flood walls and the taxed drains and pumps can handle only six inches of rain, as last week's renewed flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward showed.

"We don't have hurricane protection," General Grisoli said.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, who is co-sponsor of a $225 billion legislative proposal that includes upgraded flood protection and regional rebuilding, said the job ahead "goes beyond building a higher wall" against storm waters. "As this hurricane season tapers off," she said, "we have to be well on our way to drafting a master plan to create the most sophisticated levee system in the world," with many elements working together.

"It's not a local problem - it's not a regional problem," Ms. Landrieu said. Because of the economic importance of the area for energy and commerce, "It's a national problem, and it's a very expensive problem to fix."

In the long run, the challenges will only grow. Sea levels are rising around the world, and the land around New Orleans - including the levees - is sinking. The Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico have entered a cycle of intensified hurricane activity that could last a decade or two, and two recent studies have found that global warming might already be causing storms to be stronger than they otherwise would be.

Craig E. Colten, a professor of geography and anthropology at Louisiana State University, said that what could protect against even a Category 5 storm today "might not stand up to the worst kind of storm in 50 or 100 years."

Many experts agree on basic measures that could be taken to prevent further flooding, if Congress opens the purse strings.

Alfred Naomi, senior project manager for the New Orleans District of the Corps of Engineers, has studied ways to bring New Orleans up to Category 5 protection and says any defense against such storms would start with barriers in the channels connecting Lake Pontchartrain with the Gulf of Mexico.

The gates, which would be shut during storms, would prevent the surging gulf waters from adding to any surge from the lake.

This would in turn reduce the amount of water coursing up the drainage canals that carry the pumped runoff out of the city and into the lake. The failure of thin flood walls along those drainage canals caused most of the flooding of central New Orleans.

Smaller gates at the mouths of those canals could stop residual surges of floodwater from the lake, Mr. Naomi said. The city's pumping system can be modernized and improved, and levees and floodwalls will have to be made higher. But the added weight would cause them to sink even faster, and added width - three feet for every vertical foot - would require costly condemnation of nearby real estate. A Louisiana flood control official said that much could be accomplished for the New Orleans area by completing projects currently on the books and rethinking the regional patchwork of programs.

"Right now we have a piecemeal system," said the official, Ed Preau, the assistant secretary for public works with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

While the current projects offer protection only to the Category 3 level, Mr. Preau said, they could be strengthened. "The big issue is going to be to get past the environmental concerns," he said, adding that wrangling with environmental groups over big projects has slowed the process. Harold Schoeffler, a local official with the Sierra Club and Audubon Society, called the accusation that projects had been significantly slowed by environmental groups "a bunch of baloney."

Environmental groups never tried to block projects like a flood gate for Lake Pontchartrain, Mr. Schoeffler said; they have only demanded that the corps address the environmental impact.

Mr. Schoeffler said the Atchafalaya River and its basin, west of the city, could play a much larger role in defense against floods. He noted that the tangled delta of the Atchafalaya naturally protects the region against storm surges, and added that the corps could enhance that protection by dredging deeper channels.

"The deltas are very beneficial," he said, "but you've still got to get the water out."

Professor Colten of Louisiana State, the author of "Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature," said engineering work must be accompanied by efforts to restore nature's own systems for fighting floods. With the delta sinking, he said, "The most fundamental activity outside of the city would be to restore the wetlands."

Like many environmentalists and other experts, he advocates shutting down the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a 40-year-old shipping channel that is lightly used by industry but appears to have served as a superhighway for the Katrina storm surge, contributing to the devastation of levees and flooding in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward.

Robert Bea, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, said it was important not to rush into an ill-conceived plan.

"Don't just try to throw $200 billion at it," said Dr. Bea, who has worked for the corps and who lost his home when Hurricane Betsy struck New Orleans in 1965. "We really know how to do it better," but "we do need to slow down and think how to do it."

Professor Bea's ideas include eliminating many of the city's open canals entirely and replacing them with powerful underground drainage and pumping systems. He said he would also like to see barrier islands built in front of major inlets to block storm surges.

Thomas L. Jackson, a longtime resident of New Orleans who is vice president in the local offices of DMJM Harris, a large engineering company, said the federal government needed to rethink the way it protects against hurricanes.

After the great Mississippi River floods of 1927, Congress gave the Corps of Engineers broad powers and ample financing to do whatever was needed to prevent a similar disaster in New Orleans, including extremely strong riverside levees. By contrast, hurricane protections, which were approved after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, have greater Congressional oversight and control, and projects are subjected to a cost-benefit balancing test.

"Dams are built based on avoiding the catastrophe that would result if they failed, not on a benefit-cost ratio," Mr. Jackson said, adding that the same standard should apply equally to hurricane protection systems for New Orleans.

William F. Marcuson III, the former director of the Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Miss., and president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said that even though elected officials have vowed the city would be rebuilt, in the long run it would be foolhardy to redevelop many of the most flood-prone areas.

Essentially, he said, those areas want to be bays and wetlands. "Buy the lots back and let insurance pay for the houses," he went on. "Then maybe make it a golf course or bird sanctuary."

Recovery after a disaster generally takes far more time than people expect, said Robert W. Kates, emeritus professor of geography at Brown University. Dr. Kates, who has developed a well-regarded four-stage model of disaster recovery, said that the fourth stage - the one in which greater levels of protection are put in place - is rarely accomplished because it can take many decades.

As the rebuilding proceeds to the final stage of reconstruction, he said, the tensions that arise after every disaster are sure to emerge in New Orleans - especially the very common conflict between those who insist on putting things back in place quickly and those who say, "Let's do it right. Let's do it better."

    Levee Reconstruction Will Restore, but Not Improve, Defenses in New Orleans, NYT, 30.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/30/national/nationalspecial/30levee.html

 

 

 

 

 

Military failed

on Katrina communications: admiral

 

Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:10 PM ET
Reuters
By Charles Aldinger

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military failed to provide adequate emergency communications for Hurricane Katrina response, contributing to days of confusion after the storm devastated Mississippi and Louisiana, the admiral in charge of domestic defense forces said on Thursday.

"The devastation was so complete, so comprehensive ... that we couldn't figure out how bad it was," Vice Adm. Timothy Keating said of the lack of satellite telephones or working cellphones carried by aid troops sent to the U.S. Gulf Coast last month.

"They (telephones) weren't there for Katrina because we just didn't think to put them in there for Katrina," added Keating, chief of the U.S. military's Northern Command, in response to questions from defense reporters.

The federal government, as well as local and state authorities, has been strongly criticized for a slow initial response to the crisis.

National Guard troops, federal aid workers and state and local police have complained that they could not communicate for days on the scope of the disaster after Katrina swept ashore, snapping power and telephone lines, knocking down cellphone relay towers, causing massive flooding and killing more than 1,000 people.

Keating said working satellite telephones were given to troops ahead of hurricane Rita's subsequent assault on Texas and Louisiana and that the military was now working with federal and local officials to develop common links for future natural disasters or any attack on the United States.

"On Tim Keating's list of things we need to work and to analyze very carefully, communications is at the top of that list," the admiral said.

He said common mobile telephones could include current off-the-shelf commercial systems, new military or commercial units or simply moving current military systems into place more quickly.

"Any and all" systems with reasonable cost will be considered, Keating told reporters.

"We are working as hard as we can across the federal government, not just the Department of Defense. the (National) Guard folks are doing that, the state and the sheriffs and local beat cops," he said.

"We're going to take it on as a significant issue so that we can talk to each other as quickly after a natural event or man-made event occurs so we can get better situational awareness."

Keating's command, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is in charge of the military's part in defending the United States from terrorist or other attack.

But President George W. Bush has also asked Congress that lawmakers consider putting the Pentagon in charge of initial response to major natural disasters.

    Military failed on Katrina communications: admiral, R, 29.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-29T160934Z_01_EIC957122_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES-COMMUNICATIONS.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Fear Exceeded

Crime's Reality in New Orleans

 

September 29, 2005
The New York Times
By JIM DWYER
and CHRISTOPHER DREW

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 25 - After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists - the core of the city's economy - were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.

The mass misery in the city's two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.

A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public.

Beyond doubt, the sense of menace had been ignited by genuine disorder and violence that week. Looting began at the moment the storm passed over New Orleans, and it ranged from base thievery to foraging for the necessities of life.

Police officers said shots were fired for at least two nights at a police station on the edge of the French Quarter. The manager of a hotel on Bourbon Street said he saw people running through the streets with guns. At least one person was killed by a gunshot at the convention center, and a second at the Superdome. A police officer was shot in Algiers during a confrontation with a looter.

It is still impossible to say if the city experienced a wave of murder because autopsies have been performed on slightly more than 10 percent of the 885 dead.

[On Wednesday, however, Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state's medical incident commander for Hurricane Katrina victims, said that only six or seven deaths appear to have been the result of homicides. He also said that people returning to homes in the damaged region have begun finding the bodies of relatives.

[Superintendent Compass, one of the few seemingly authoritative sources during the days after the storm, resigned Tuesday for reasons that remain unclear. His departure came just as he was coming under criticism from The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which had questioned many of his public accounts of extreme violence.]

In an interview last week with The New York Times, Superintendent Compass said that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue. Asked about reports of rapes and murders, he said: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault."

On Sept. 4, however, he was quoted in The Times about conditions at the convention center, saying: "The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they're being preyed upon. They are beating, they are raping them in the streets."

Those comments, Superintendent Compass now says, were based on secondhand reports. The tourists "were walking with their suitcases, and they would have their clothes and things taken," he said last week. "No rapes that we can quantify."

 

Rumors Affected Response

A full chronicle of the week's crimes, actual and reported, may never be possible because so many basic functions of government ceased early in the week, including most public safety record-keeping. The city's 911 operators left their phones when water began to rise around their building.

To assemble a picture of crime, both real and perceived, The New York Times interviewed dozens of evacuees in four cities, police officers, medical workers and city officials. Though many provided concrete, firsthand accounts, others passed along secondhand information or rumor that after multiple tellings had ossified into what became accepted as fact.

What became clear is that the rumor of crime, as much as the reality of the public disorder, often played a powerful role in the emergency response. A team of paramedics was barred from entering Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper's report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets, said Farol Champlin, a paramedic with the Acadian Ambulance Company.

On another occasion, the company's ambulances were locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers of all its water - a report that proved totally untrue, said Aaron Labatt, another paramedic.

A contingent of National Guard troops was sent to rescue a St. Bernard Parish deputy sheriff who radioed for help, saying he was pinned down by a sniper. Accompanied by a SWAT team, the troops surrounded the area. The shots turned out to be the relief valve on a gas tank that popped open every few minutes, said Maj. Gen. Ron Mason of the 35th Infantry Division of the Kansas National Guard.

"It's part of human nature," General Mason said. "When you get one or two reports, it echoes around the community."

Faced with reports that 400 to 500 armed looters were advancing on the town of Westwego, two police officers quit on the spot. The looters never appeared, said the Westwego police chief, Dwayne Munch.

"Rumors could tear down an entire army," Chief Munch said.

During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department's sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

"I think it was urban myth," said Lieutenant Benelli, who also heads the police union. "Any time you put 25,000 people under one roof, with no running water, no electricity and no information, stories get told."

 

Crimes of Opportunity

The actual, serious crime began, in the recollection of many, before the catastrophic failure of the levees flooded the city, and much of it consisted of crimes of opportunity rather than assault. On the morning of Monday, Aug. 29, in the half hour or so that the eye of Hurricane Katrina fell on the city - an illusory moment of drawn breath, sunshine and fair breezes - the looters struck, said Capt. Anthony W. Canatella, the police commander in the Sixth District.

Using a chain hitched to a car, they tore open the steel doors at the back of a pawn shop called Cash America on Claiborne Avenue. "Payday Advances to 350," read a sign where the marquee would have been.

"There was nothing in there you could sustain your life with," Captain Canatella said. "There's nothing in there but guns and power tools."

The Sixth District - like most of New Orleans, a checkerboard of wealth and poverty - was the scene of heavy looting, with much of the stealing confined to the lower-income neighborhoods. A particular target was a Wal-Mart store on Tchoupitoulas Street, bordering the city's elegant Garden District and built on the site of a housing project that had been torn down.

The looters told a reporter from The Times that they followed police officers into the store after they broke it open, and police commanders said their officers had been given permission to take what they needed from the store to survive. A reporter from The Times-Picayune said he saw police officers grabbing DVD's.

A frenzy of stealing began, and the fruits of it could be seen last week in three containers parked outside the Sixth District police station. Inside were goods recovered from stashes placed by looters in homes throughout the neighborhood, said Captain Canatella, most but not all still bearing Wal-Mart stickers.

"Not one piece of educational material was taken - the best-selling books are all sitting right where they were left," Captain Canatella said. "But every $9 watch in the store is gone."

One of the officers who went to the Wal-Mart said the police did not try to stop people from taking food and water. "People sitting outside the Wal-Mart with groceries waiting for a ride, I just let them sit there," said Sgt. Dan Anderson of the Sixth District. "If they had electronics, I just threw it back in there."

Three auto parts stores were also looted. In a house on Clara Street, Sergeant Anderson picked his way through a soggy living room, where car parts, still in their boxes, were strewn about. On the wall above a couch, someone had written "Looters" with spray paint.

"The nation's realizing what kind of criminals we have here," Sergeant Anderson said.

Among the evacuees, there was gratitude for efforts by the police and others to help them get out of town, but it was clear that some members of the public did not have a high opinion of the New Orleans Police Department, with numerous people citing cases of corruption and violence a decade ago.

"Don't get me wrong, there was bad stuff going on in the streets, but the police is dirty," said Michael Young, who had worked as a waiter in the Riverwalk development.

 

French Quarter Is Spared

As the storm winds died down that Monday, small groups that had evacuated from poor neighborhoods as far away as the Lower Ninth Ward passed through the historic French Quarter, heading for shelter at the convention center.

"Some were pushing little carts with their belongings and holding onto their kids," said Capt. Kevin B. Anderson, the French Quarter's police commander. He said his officers gave food, water and rides. "That also served another purpose," he said. "That when they came through, they didn't cause any problems."

The jewelry and antique shops in the French Quarter were basically left untouched, though squatters moved into a few of the hotels. Only a small grocery store and drugstores at the edge of the quarter were hit by looters, he said. From behind the locked doors of the Royal Sonesta hotel on Bourbon Street, Hans Wandfluh, the general manager, said he had watched passers-by who seemed to be up to no good. "We heard gunshots fired," Mr. Wandfluh said. "We saw people running with guns."

At dusk on Aug. 29, looters broke windows along Canal Street and swarmed into drugstores, shoe stores and electronics shops, Captain Anderson said. Some tried, without success, to break into banks, and others sought to take money from A.T.M.'s.

The convention center, without water, air-conditioning, light or any authority figures, was recalled by many as a place of great suffering. Many heard rumors of crime, and saw sinister behavior, but few had firsthand knowledge of violence, which they often said they believed had taken place in another part of the half-mile-long center.

"I saw Coke machines being torn up - each and every one of them was busted on the second floor," said Percy McCormick, a security guard who spent four nights in the convention center and was interviewed in Austin, Tex.

Capt. Jeffrey Winn, the commander of the SWAT team, said its members rushed into the convention center to chase muzzle flashes from weapons to root out groups of men who had taken over some of the halls. No guns were recovered.

State officials have said that 10 people died at the Superdome and 24 died around the convention center - 4 inside and 20 nearby. While autopsies have not been completed, so far only one person appears to have died from gunshot wounds at each facility.

In another incident, Captain Winn and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, the assistant SWAT commander, said they both shot and wounded a man brandishing a gun near people who had taken refuge on an Interstate highway. Captain Winn said the SWAT team also exchanged gunfire with looters on Tchoupitoulas Street.

The violence that seemed hardest to explain were the reports of shots being fired at rescue and repair workers, including police officers and firefighters, construction and utility workers.

Cellphone repair workers had to abandon work after shots from the Fischer housing project in Algiers, Captain Winn said. His team swept the area three times. On one sweep, federal agents found an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, Captain Winn said.

For military officials, who flew rescue missions around the city, the reports that people were shooting at helicopters turned out to be mistaken. "We investigated one incident and it turned out to have been shooting on the ground, not at the helicopter," said Maj. Mike Young of the Air Force.

Nathan Levy contributed reporting from Austin, Tex., for this article.

    Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans, NYT, 29.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/national/nationalspecial/29crime.html

 

 

 

 

 

Returning Home,

a Handful Find Bodies;

New Orleans Mayor

Presses Effort to Reopen City

 

September 29, 2005
The New York Times
By SHAILA DEWAN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 28 - A few residents returning to their homes in this devastated region have found the bodies of their loved ones, even in houses that have been searched and marked, and the state emergency medical director warned Wednesday that more families could be in for a similar shock.

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the medical director for emergency response, made his remarks after a news conference about the effort to retrieve and identify bodies, saying he had arranged for a rapid response if families called 911. Four bodies were found on Wednesday in St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans.

"I'm very concerned about people going back to their homes," Dr. Cataldie said. The statement came just before Mayor C. Ray Nagin laid out plans to open most of New Orleans to residents over the next week, an effort that had been stalled by Hurricane Rita.

Speaking to state legislators at the Capitol, Mayor Nagin said residents would be allowed to return to all neighborhoods except the Lower Ninth Ward, which he said was still flooded. They will be allowed to inspect their property or, if they wanted, to stay in the city, he said, according to The Associated Press.

Mayor Nagin's effort to repopulate New Orleans, which still lacks basic services in many areas, was seemingly unshaken by the resignation of the city's police superintendent, Edwin P. Compass III, on Tuesday. Superintendent Compass said in an interview on Wednesday that he decided to resign at the urging of the mayor in a Tuesday morning meeting.

Mayor Nagin has been under tremendous pressure from New Orleanians who have watched neighboring parishes like St. Bernard reopen in recent days, even though the experience has been painful. Many families took along empty trailers for salvaged belongings, but left with only a bag or two of possessions, the rest having been ruined.

Officials said it was inevitable that a few returning residents would face not only the trauma of seeing their homes and possessions destroyed, but also the body of a family member. Although search-and-rescue teams from various law enforcement agencies have done grid searches, they have entered homes only if there was reason to believe that they might find a living person or human remains, Dr. Cataldie said.

Dr. Bryan Bertucci, the coroner in St. Bernard Parish, which was opened to residents on Saturday, said that even in houses that had been entered, conditions might have prevented a thorough search.

"I've been in my own house five times, and I still can't get into the bathroom," Dr. Bertucci said.

In many rooms at St. Rita's Nursing Home, where 34 died, he said, "if you looked in the room numerous times, you wouldn't know somebody was there unless you moved furniture around."

Dr. Bertucci said that three of the four bodies found on Wednesday had been discovered by families or friends. In the fourth case, the family was on the way home but called ahead to report that they had not heard from one relative. Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, which has been contracted to retrieve bodies, was able to find and remove the body before the family arrived.

"All of us felt that this would be the worst scenario that could happen, and it is happening," Dr. Bertucci said. "People are coming back to find their loved ones."

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina now stands at 1,134 in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia. Houston has recorded 46 deaths among evacuees. Dr. Cataldie said that of the 783 bodies taken to the temporary central morgue, 32 have been released to families.

Dr. Cataldie said about 340 others had been presumptively identified but would not be released until they were positively identified through DNA, dental records or fingerprints. Families are typically notified when a presumptive identification is made, he said. Other bodies have not been released because they are awaiting autopsy, he said.

Many of those identified have been from nursing homes or hospitals. More than 100 autopsies have been performed, Dr. Cataldie said, the bulk of them on bodies found in those institutions. The state attorney general is investigating those deaths and has charged the operators of St. Rita's with negligent homicide.

People who appear to have been the victims of violence will also have autopsies, Dr. Cataldie said. Only six or seven have appeared to be homicide victims, he said.

Dr. Cataldie acknowledged that the process was painfully slow for families waiting to say their last goodbyes.

"Yes, it's horrible," he said. "These are horrible times, and it's extremely frustrating."

Mayor Nagin has also been frustrated in his effort to reopen New Orleans to businesses and residents. Businesses will be allowed to return on Thursday and residents beginning on Friday, with the primary exception being flooded areas in the Ninth Ward, under the plan announced Wednesday.

A day earlier, Mayor Nagin had asked his police chief to consider stepping down, the chief said in a phone interview. Superintendent Compass said now that he had guided the New Orleans police past the chaos of Hurricane Katrina, perhaps others could do better as New Orleans began to rebuild.

"The mayor said that I did a great job for the city, but that every leader has to understand when they have to leave," Superintendent Compass said, referring to his 26 years as a police officer and three years as chief.

He said that Mayor Nagin told him: "I'm not forcing you to retire, but you've got to think of the big picture. Are you the best man to run the department? Do you have the energy to keep up with the pace you've been going?"

The mayor noted that the police chief's wife, Arlene, is expected to give birth in two weeks, the superintendent said.

Superintendent Compass sounded philosophical, not bitter, and described his relationship with the mayor as professional, not adversarial.

"He didn't pressure me," the chief said.

Superintendent Compass said he had spoken to publishers in New York this month at the request of a friend and with the intent of giving most of the money from any book deal to the local police foundation for displaced officers. No deal had been signed, he said.

"I'm not going to take advantage of this to make money," Superintendent Compass said. "God has given me everything that I need. I didn't resign to write a book or make a movie. My life is police work."

Jere Longman contributed reporting from New Orleans for this article.

Returning Home, a Handful Find Bodies; New Orleans Mayor Presses Effort to Reopen City, NYT, 29.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/national/nationalspecial/29death.html

 

 

 

 

 

A Mogul Who Would Rebuild New Orleans

 

September 29, 2005
The New York Times
By GARY RIVLIN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 28 - Many of the business elite of New Orleans seem preoccupied these days by what some here simply call The List - the chosen few Mayor C. Ray Nagin is expected to name on Friday to a commission to advise him on the rebuilding of the stricken city. Almost certain to make the grade is the real estate mogul Joseph C. Canizaro, the man best known for bringing high-rises to the New Orleans skyline.

Mr. Canizaro has emerged as perhaps the single most influential business executive from New Orleans. One fellow business leader calls him the local Donald Trump. But Mr. Canizaro derives his influence far less from a flamboyant style than from his close ties to President Bush as well as to Mr. Nagin, and that combination could make him a pivotal figure in deciding how and where New Orleans will be resurrected.

Mr. Canizaro has not only secured a coveted spot on the commission, those who have seen the list said, but he has played a critical role in shaping it. At a state Senate hearing held in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, Mr. Nagin confirmed that he would be naming an advisory panel, but that he had not completed a list.

New Orleans is a town where generally it helps to have local roots that go back at least one or two generations, if not back to the days before the Louisiana Purchase. Mr. Canizaro first arrived in New Orleans in the mid-1960's, when he was in his 20's.

Yet despite his status as a relative newcomer, Mr. Canizaro's stature has grown because of his political influence, the force of his personality and his record of public service to the city where he has lived for 41 years.

Like Mr. Trump, he has celebrated the ribbon-cutting of buildings that have achieved iconic status in New Orleans, and has faced down bankruptcy, only to emerge so financially strong that he recently moved into a home that Lt. Gov. Mitchell J. Landrieu described as "perhaps the nicest house in all of Louisiana." That home, which took four years to build and resembles a European palace, was severely damaged by three feet of water that flooded his neighborhood just west of the city.

Mr. Canizaro is inclined to view the flooding of New Orleans as both a tragedy and an opportunity. He notes that the city's schools were substandard, its housing stock crumbling and its crime rate among the nation's highest. "I think we have a clean sheet to start again," Mr. Canizaro said. "And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities."

Like many in the city's establishment, Mr. Canizaro declined to give his vision for a new New Orleans. But many locals expect Mr. Canizaro will use as a starting blueprint a report from the Committee for a Better New Orleans that he and other civic leaders have sitting on their shelves. In 2000, he started that committee, which brought together more than 100 business and community activists to talk about everything from the poor state of the city's schools to the high crime rate and preponderance of dilapidated buildings.

"Joe was very involved, coming to every meeting, really pushing people to come up with concrete proposals," said Norman C. Francis, the president of Xavier University, the nation's only historically black Catholic university. "Joe is a can-do guy; he's a go-getter, a doer," said Mr. Francis, who co-led the committee with Mr. Canizaro.

Over the years, Mr. Canizaro has socialized with the president, a man he describes as a friend. And Mr. Bush no doubt appreciates the hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Canizaro has contributed to the Republican Party, according to campaign finance records. In 2004, he attained Ranger status in the Bush campaign - someone who raised at least $200,000 for the president's re-election.

Mr. Canizaro said he was not acting as a formal intermediary between the president and local leaders, and had not spoken directly to Mr. Bush since Katrina struck.

But he said he had kept in regular contact with Mr. Bush's top aides. "I've been having conversations with people around the president, for guidance and direction and commitment and support," he said. "I've been trying to help out in that way."

The city's other business leaders assume that his connections are sterling. One prominent local business leader, who declined to be named for fear of jeopardizing a slot on the commission, was downright giddy that his name was on a draft list of names Mr. Canizaro was circulating last week.

"From what I understand, Joe is the prime mover on this thing, at least as far as the business members' portion of the commission," this person said.

"The general perception is that Joe, as someone locally who has the president's ear, will be playing a particularly critical role as we start getting down to the work of rebuilding the city," said J. Stephen Perry, a former gubernatorial chief of staff who now heads the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. While Mr. Perry is expected to be an important player as the city rebuilds, his name was not on the list as of midweek.

Since Katrina, Mr. Canizaro has spent much of his time in Utah, where he owns a second home. In mid-September, when the mayor invited a group of business leaders to Dallas to discuss the city's future, the mayor took the time for a phone conversation with Mr. Canizaro.

"It was an incredible thing to witness," said one participant in the Dallas meeting, who did not want his name used because he was talking about a private gathering. "The mayor stood there on the phone, nodding and jotting down notes, as if Joe were passing on bullet points directly from the president."

Mr. Canizaro, who earlier this year hosted a fund-raiser in his home for the mayor, tiptoed around the topic of his behind-the-scenes role. Only when pressed did he acknowledge that he is fully engaged in the creation of the advisory council: "The mayor and I have spoken numerous times about getting the commission together," he said, but he stressed that ultimately the mayor, and no single private individual, would fill out its roster.

"This is the mayor's thing," he said, over a breakfast of ham and eggs in Baton Rouge last week. "I'm just doing what I can to help."

Mr. Canizaro is on the short side but has a strong jaw and steely gray hair and a clipped, authoritative way of speaking that suggests he is accustomed to giving orders. At breakfast, he was constantly in motion, his leg bobbing as he played with his eating utensils and fiddled with whatever was within reach.

Of course, other business leaders are expected to play a central role in the rebuilding of New Orleans. One is Donald T. Bollinger Jr., who runs Bollinger Shipyards, based in Lockport, Miss., and who confirmed that he had been asked to serve on the commission.

Mr. Bollinger, who splits his time between homes in New Orleans and others scattered around the Gulf Coast, is also prominent in Republican circles in Louisiana. His résumé includes a long list of community activities, including a stint as chairman of the local United Way and a turn as the head of Citizens for a Better New Orleans.

"I'm a friend of the president's, but I don't know if that was the governing factor in my name ending up on the list," Mr. Bollinger said.

The list also includes several prominent African-American business leaders, including Alden J. McDonald Jr., the chief executive of the Liberty Bank and Trust Company, and Daniel F. Packer, the chief executive of the New Orleans subsidiary of the Entergy Corporation, which filed for bankruptcy protection last week.

Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane University, who first arrived in New Orleans in 1998, is also expected to be named to the mayor's commission. "A few decades ago, New Orleans was the kind of closed community where unless you were born and raised here, you couldn't have much influence," Mr. Cowen said. "In recent years, that's clearly changing. As a result, people like Joe Canizaro and others can have much more influence than they would have had a decade or two ago."

Mr. Francis, the Xavier University president, said he, too, had been asked to serve on the mayor's commission but declined because he had already committed to serving on a similar group being formed by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

While in New Orleans last week to visit his home and check on his various business interests, Mr. Canizaro met with Mr. Nagin. Among other things, he stressed his belief that any commission must consist of an equal number of representatives from both the black and white communities.

"We in the business community must realize that we need to work with the balance of the community, particularly our African-American associates, to help develop a plan for the revival of the city," he said. Unless the discussions encompass a more wide-ranging group, he said, stabbing a meaty finger in the air to drive his point, even the best-intentioned efforts would probably fail.

When asked if he thought racial balance might prove controversial with conservatives, he responded, "I can assure you the president feels the same way."

Mr. Canizaro, the oldest of eight children, said he left Biloxi, Miss., in 1963 because he felt his opportunities there were limited. In the ensuing decades, he has built a number of large projects that have come to define New Orleans, including the 500-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and an office-condominium project called Canal Place. He is best known for constructing a cluster of high rises on Poydras Street, including the Texaco Center and LL&E Tower, which helped create a new corridor of commerce in the central business district.

Mr. Canizaro thrived through the first half of the 1980's, when the city was awash in oil money. But when oil prices dropped sharply in the mid-1980's, some of his more ambitious projects sat largely empty, and more than a few tenants were forced to break their leases.

"I definitely went through some hard times," Mr. Canizaro said. "I came close to bankruptcy."

He survived through a combination of stubbornness - he refused to lower his rents - and the good will of some creditors, including Citicorp, that did not demand repayment of their loans. After surviving the downturn of the 1980's, he diversified by forming the Firstrust Corporation, a bank holding company that acquired banks in and around New Orleans, and in 1998 he founded Corporate Capital, a venture capital firm.

    A Mogul Who Would Rebuild New Orleans, NYT, 29.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/business/29mogul.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans to allow

more residents to go home

 

Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:12 PM ET
Reuters
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Kenneth Li

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans residents will be allowed to return to the driest areas of the storm-battered city at the end of this week, many for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit nearly a month ago, according to a new timetable announced on Wednesday by the city's mayor.

Under the plan by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, only areas still flooded, specifically the city's hardest hit Ninth Ward, will remain off limits to residents by the middle of next week. Everyone else can go home for good.

Nagin's initial plan to repopulate the city soon after Katrina struck on Aug 29 came under criticism from federal officials as premature. That plan was postponed last week due to the Hurricane Rita.

Now New Orleans residents have been pleading to be let back in.

"We're doing it as quickly as we can, and we're doing it as safely as we can," the mayor said at an appearance in Baton Rouge.

He said progress has been made to restore city services, including some electrical power. But he instructed residents of some neighborhoods to continue boiling their water.

"We're getting things done. For those who say we're not ready, take that," he said. "I'm frustrated that every time we get to the point of talking about re-entry, another official comes out and says we're not ready."

Under Nagin's timetable, residents can return on Friday in areas that did not flood or flooded very little. Those include the historic French Quarter, the Central Business District and uptown neighborhoods, including the elegant Garden District.

 

HOW MANY WILL RETURN?

It's unclear how many of the city's estimated 1 million displaced residents will return.

"So far we lost a lot of people who don't want to come back. Maybe they'll change their mind," said Georges Keedy, a worker in the Central Business District.

The mayor said houses have been inspected and those deemed structurally unsafe will sport red stickers and people should not stay in them, he said. Most problems returning residents will encounter will be structural.

By Wednesday, he said, people should be able to return to every location except the lower Ninth Ward, which is still underwater from renewed flooding from Hurricane Rita.

So far, most residents have been allowed to visit limited parts of the city to assess damage, but they could not stay. In the Algiers section, which did not flood, residents have been allowed to move back home.

"It's been a month. Some people have to have closure. They have to decide life-altering decisions," said Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, New Orleans city councilwoman, whose district includes parts of the Ninth Ward.

On Thursday, businesses will have nearly full access to the areas of the city that did not flood, Nagin said.

As the mayor made plans to rebuild the city, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco began lobbying Washington for support to rebuild the storm-battered state.

Blanco declined a chance to respond in Congress to comments by the former head of the federal disaster agency blaming her for problems in the response to the storms. She said she would rather focus on her economic request.

 

BLANCO FOCUSED ON ECONOMIC RELIEF

"Today I came really to talk about job creation," she told the Senate Finance Committee.

She has said the state needs nearly $32 billion in federal aid to help rebuild the state's infrastructure.

"This country and its economy must have a vibrant commercial center at the mouth of the Mississippi River, its most important waterway," Blanco said. "Katrina and Rita brought our economy to its knees."

In Erath, Louisiana, farmer Jimmy Domingues surveyed his 3,200 acres of sugar cane, which Hurricane Rita covered with four feet of water, and said it was the worst damage he had ever seen.

"If we don't get any kind of help, we're bankrupt," Domingues said. "There's no two ways about it."

Elsewhere in Vermilion Parish, houses were moved 100 yards from their foundation and dead cattle and horses littered the landscape.

Blanco said an array of incentives, from a fund to spur business development, to tax credits and hurricane recovery bonds, are necessary to help Louisiana. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left 71,000, or almost 41 percent, of the state's businesses shuttered or displaced.

She vowed to rebuild the state with more secure levees, which breached during both hurricanes, and stricter building codes.

The governor's appearance followed dramatic testimony on Tuesday by former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, who called Louisiana "dysfunctional" after Hurricane Katrina struck, and said he was stymied by differences between Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Congressional Republican leaders promised on Wednesday to look for ways to cut spending to help pay for the huge costs of post-hurricane rebuilding. Congress has approved $62.3 billion in aid after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late August. Early estimates of the total eventual federal bill run as high as $200 billion.

Katrina and Rita, which hit on Saturday, devastated the Gulf Coast from Texas to Alabama. Katrina killed at least 1,122 people and ruined New Orleans. The storms forced more than 2 million people to evacuate and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.

(Additional reporting by Matt Daily and Mark Babineck in Houston)

    New Orleans to allow more residents to go home, R, 28.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-28T221147Z_01_FOR766548_RTRUKOC_0_US-HURRICANES.xml

 

 

 

 

 

When Storm Hit

National Guard Was Deluged Too

 

September 28, 2005
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE
and THOM SHANKER

 

The morning Hurricane Katrina thundered ashore, Louisiana National Guard commanders thought they were prepared to save their state. But when 15-foot floodwaters swept into their headquarters, cut their communications and disabled their high-water trucks, they had their hands full just saving themselves.

For a crucial 24 hours after landfall on Aug. 29, Guard officers said, they were preoccupied with protecting their nerve center from the waves topping the windows at Jackson Barracks and rescuing soldiers who could not swim. The next morning, they had to evacuate their entire headquarters force of 375 guardsmen by boat and helicopter to the Superdome.

It was an inauspicious start to the National Guard's hurricane response, which fell so short that it has set off a national debate about whether in the future the Pentagon should take charge immediately after catastrophes. President Bush has asked Congress to study the question, and top Defense Department and Guard officials are scheduled to testify on the response before a House panel today.

Other elements of the response to Hurricane Katrina are also coming into question. The New Orleans police chief, Edwin P. Compass III, resigned yesterday after the department announced that 250 police officers - roughly 15 percent of the force - could face discipline for leaving their posts without permission during the storm and its aftermath.

The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, testified in Congress that he had warned the White House of impending disaster several days before the storm struck. [Page A17.]

In interviews, Guard commanders and state and local officials in Louisiana said the Guard performed well under the circumstances. But they say it was crippled in the early days by a severe shortage of troops that they blame in part on the deployment to Iraq of 3,200 Louisiana guardsmen. While the Pentagon disputes that Iraq was a factor, those on the ground say the war has clearly strained a force intended to be the nation's bulwark against natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Reinforcements from other states' National Guard units, slowed by the logistics and red tape involved in summoning troops from civilian jobs and moving them thousands of miles, did not arrive in large numbers until the fourth day after the hurricane passed. The coordinating task was so daunting that Louisiana officials turned to the Pentagon to help organize the appeal for help.

At the convention center, 222 soldiers trained in levee repair, not police work, locked themselves into an exhibit hall at the convention center rather than challenge an angry and desperate crowd of more than 10,000 hurricane victims at the center.

The near-total collapse of communications made every task far more difficult, forcing some Guard commanders to use "runners, like in World War I," as one put it. With land lines, cellphones and many satellite phones out of action, the frequencies used by the radios still functioning were often so jammed that they were useless.

"I think the Guard has performed admirably - unbelievably well - based on the conditions that Mother Nature gave us," Col. Glenn Curtis, deputy commander of the state's response to Hurricane Katrina, said in an interview. Disaster experts say that whatever the faults in execution, the 5,700 troops at the disposal of the Louisiana National Guard were far too few.

"What do you expect of 5,700 soldiers when so much of a state is destroyed?" said James Jay Carafano, who studies emergency response at the Heritage Foundation. "If we want the military to close the 72-hour gap in responding to natural disasters, we'll have to come up with a new model."

The eventual military response, which climbed to 35,000 guardsmen and active-duty troops, was widely judged effective. Yet questions about the first few days haunt many Louisiana guard officials: Should commanders have moved their headquarters to higher ground before the storm? Could they have better headed off the lawlessness or built more resilient communications?

And especially, could they have moved more troops faster to New Orleans and other devastated areas?

"I think to a man, we will live with the pain of this experience," said Col. Douglas Mouton, commander of 2,500 Guard engineers. The restoration of order at the convention center, when it came, was "phenomenally quick," Colonel Mouton said. "I think the frustration we all have - the country has - is, why couldn't it have been done a lot quicker?"

It was Colonel Mouton who made the decision not to send his soldiers into the crowd at the convention center. A 41-year-old New Orleans architect whose own house was destroyed by the flood, Colonel Mouton defended that decision but said the scenes of anguish that became an international emblem of American failure were particularly painful for local guardsmen.

"These are fellow New Orleanians who are suffering," he said, "people that I go to Mardi Gras parades with."

When the storm hit, 4,000 Louisiana guardsmen were on duty, including 1,250 in New Orleans and surrounding parishes, Guard officials said. By the next day, all 5,700 available Guard members were dispersed around the state, they said.

The senior commander of National Guard troops at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, said the Iraq deployment did not slow the hurricane response. He said that Louisiana Guard troops were "in the water and on the streets throughout the affected areas rescuing people within four hours of Katrina's passing," and that out-of-state troops arrived as soon as they could be mustered.

But state Guard commanders disagreed. "We would have used them if we'd had them," said Lt. Col. Pete Schneider, a spokesman for the Louisiana Guard. "We've always known in the event of a catastrophic storm in New Orleans that we'd use our resources up pretty fast."

There is little disagreement that Guard equipment sent to Iraq, particularly hundreds of high-water trucks, fuel trucks and satellite phones, could have helped speed the response. The chairmen of the Senate National Guard caucus, Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, and Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said in a Sept. 13 letter to Mr. Bush that the Guard nationally had only 34 percent of its equipment available for use in the United States.

With about 150 high-water trucks available statewide, Guard commanders placed most of them outside the danger zone at bases more than two hours' drive from New Orleans. They risked parking 20 trucks at the low-lying Jackson Barracks so they could be immediately available.

Even though the National Hurricane Center warned that Hurricane Katrina might be catastrophic, they did not consider setting up headquarters elsewhere. In 10 years with the Guard, said Col. Tom Beron, who oversees most of the Guard's trucks and drivers, he had never seen more than a few inches of water on the grounds and none inside the buildings. But by midmorning on Aug. 29, as the flood approached the second floor of an armory where 35 truck mechanics, many of them unable to swim, had found refuge, Colonel Beron decided they needed to get out of that building.

The trucks were useless. "There's not a truck in the U.S. Army arsenal that could get through that water," Colonel Beron said.

After ferrying the mechanics to the three-story headquarters building in a borrowed fishing boat, guardsmen grabbed civilian neighbors as they floated past.

"It was best to have a rope tied to you, because the water would just carry you away," Colonel Curtis said.

The relocation of the Guard command on Aug. 30 to the Superdome from the flooded barracks assured attention to the huge crowd there. But as word arrived the next evening of the ballooning numbers at the convention center, commanders felt they had no soldiers to spare.

By happenstance, there were guardsmen at the convention center: backhoe operators, truck drivers and mechanics who had chosen a huge exhibit hall to stage their heavy equipment.

Of the 222 there, almost none were trained in police work or riot control. Many did not have weapons, said Colonel Mouton, the engineers' commander. "We didn't expect a martial law situation," he said. "We were building levees."

Thirsty, hungry civilians began banging on the doors. But commanders decided opening them would pose a danger of a stampede.

"We understand we're soldiers," Colonel Mouton said. "But what we had at the convention center was a partially armed group of engineers, ready to operate equipment," - and with enough food and water to anger 20,000 people.

On Sept. 1, he withdrew the engineers to the Superdome.

Aware that the Guard would be stretched thin, state officials had contacted other states two days before the storm hit about sending troops under an agreement called the Emergency Management Assistance Contract. The day the storm hit, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana asked President Bush for all the help he could provide. After touring New Orleans by helicopter the next day, she asked General Blum, of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, to speed and coordinate aid from other states.

Some states got troops there quickly. Sgt. Lawrence Ouellette, a Rhode Island guardsman who works as a police officer, was in court in Central Falls, R.I., on Aug. 31, when he got the call. Just 24 hours later, he and his fellow soldiers had flown to a base near New Orleans and then flew by helicopter to the Superdome to help.

At least one governor, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, has complained publicly that his early offer of help went unanswered. Officials said New Mexico offered 200 Guard members the day the storm hit, and the troops were packed and ready to move the next day. But no orders were received to move those troops until two days later, Sept. 1, and 400 soldiers finally flew to the hurricane zone on Sept. 2.

At the Pentagon, National Guard officials offered no explanation for the apparent delay. An officer not involved in the specific case said the reasons might include lack of aircraft and housing for the troops or uncertainty about their mission.

In the weeks since the military presence brought order to the Gulf Coast, officials in Washington and statehouses have suggested that the state-controlled National Guard is no match for a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. Some have suggested that the military have a domestic force ready for instant deployment, while others say the Pentagon should simply assume responsibility for communications and other support services. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he expected a debate on the military's role.

"It's up to the country, the government, to think that through and decide how they want to be arranged for a catastrophic event," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Denise Bottcher, press secretary to Governor Blanco, said state officials supported such a rethinking. "Every piece of emergency preparedness, including the military, should be scrutinized," Ms Bottcher said. "There should be some examination of how we can do this better."

    When Storm Hit, National Guard Was Deluged Too, NYT, 28.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/national/nationalspecial/28guard.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Police Superintendent

Quits Amid Criticism

 

September 28, 2005
The New York Times
By JERE LONGMAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 27 - Edwin P. Compass III, the city's flamboyant police superintendent, resigned on Tuesday after weeks of criticism for his department's failure to stem disorder in the city and in his own department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

At a news conference in which he took no questions, Mr. Compass noted that he had been a policeman for 26 years and chief for 3½ years, saying, "I have taken this department through some of the toughest times in its history." But, he added, "Every man in a leadership position must know when it's time to hand over the reins to someone else."

He gave no reasons for resignation, but it came on the same day that the police department announced that about 250 officers - about 15 percent of the force - would be investigated for absences without permission in the days after Hurricane Katrina submerged this city four weeks ago.

On Tuesday morning, an editorial in The New Orleans Times-Picayune accused Mr. Compass and Mayor C. Ray Nagin of embellishing stories of mayhem at the convention center and the Superdome in the chaotic days following the hurricane.

Warren J. Riley, the deputy superintendent, was named acting superintendent by Mayor Nagin, who called Mr. Compass a "hero."

Mr. Compass, 47, has defended his department's reaction to the hurricane, saying the police held the city together even though the department's ammunition armory was left underwater, its communications system had failed and relief from the military was slow in arriving.

His supporters praised him for his street cop's sensibility, his honesty and his avoidance of the labyrinth of politics in promoting officers. He had a garrulous, casual, approachable style, preferring to be called Eddie instead of Edwin.

"During the height of the storm, and through the dark times, when we had very little communications from the federal government, the men and women of this department had the wherewithal and the spirit to keep this city together," said Lt. David Benelli, president of the city's police union. "That's due to the spirit of Eddie Compass."

Mr. Compass referred to himself as a "warrior" who was the first to set foot on the battlefield during the post-hurricane bedlam in New Orleans. His unorthodox, back-slapping management style was evident two weeks after the hurricane when he stopped while visiting various police districts for a pedicure, a massage and a haircut. It was, he said, all part of visiting his "troops."

But the strain was clearly evident in Mr. Compass's face, and, in a recent interview, he spoke of health problems including a bad back, hemorrhoids and glaucoma. He also said he had seen little lately of his wife, Arlene, who is more than eight months pregnant and had evacuated their home west of New Orleans and moved to Denham Springs, La.

Privately, some police officers said that Mr. Compass may have considered resigning even before Hurricane Katrina struck. Earlier this month, while in New York, Mr. Compass sought a book deal detailing his hurricane experience, said two publishing officials who asked not to be identified because a confidentiality agreement had been signed.

Several high-ranking police officers said, however, that they did not know what was behind his departure.

"We don't know why, whether it's a personal decision or whether there's anything operating in the background," said Capt. Michael Pfeiffer, a top police operations official.

Yet, morale was known to be low among many officers, some of whom grumbled privately on Tuesday that they were not receiving overtime pay. CNN also reported new accusations last week of police looting in the wake of the storm, which the department denied.

Before the hurricane, a hearing before the City Council had been scheduled for this Thursday to discuss accusations of police roughhousing of blacks who dress as Mardi Gras Indians, said Mary Howell, a local civil rights lawyer and longtime critic of the police department.

"There was a palpable separation between the police department and the community," Ms. Howell said. "It was very clear there were problems of leadership and accountability and discipline."

On Friday, Mr. Nagin is expected to announce a commission to help advise him on the rebuilding of New Orleans. For weeks, local business leaders have lobbied for a forum to debate the various plans for a new New Orleans that have come to dominate conversation around the city.

The commission is expected to consist of 16 community and business leaders, say people briefed about the decision, and will include an equal mix of blacks and whites.

Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane University, is one name frequently mentioned as a likely choice for the commission.

Meanwhile in Texas, which continues to recover from Hurricane Rita, the Harris County Medical Examiner's office in Houston on Tuesday night put out a list of 31 deaths "associated with Hurricane Rita" between Sept. 21 and 26. The victims, 19 women and 11 men and a baby boy, ranged in age from 14 months to 92.

At least 19 of the deaths appeared linked to the chaotic evacuation when many of the 2.5 million people who fled the oncoming storm spent 12 hours or more stuck in gridlocked traffic in hundred-degree heat. Seven were listed as dying of hyperthermia. But it was impossible to tell the circumstances of the deaths.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Gary Rivlin in New Orleans, Ralph Blumenthal in Houston and Christopher Drew, Jim Dwyer, Michael Luo and Joseph B. Treaster in New York.

    New Orleans Police Superintendent Quits Amid Criticism, NYT, 28.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/national/nationalspecial/28storm.html

 

 

 

 

 


Ex-FEMA Director Says

He Issued Early Warnings

 

September 28, 2005
The New York Times
By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 - Michael D. Brown, who stepped down as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the government's much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina, told a Congressional committee on Tuesday that he had warned the White House of impending disaster several days before the storm struck.

Asked when the White House became aware that a "disaster was looming" in the Gulf Coast region, Mr. Brown said he had warned Andrew H. Card Jr., President Bush's chief of staff, at least three days before the hurricane hit New Orleans on Aug. 28.

"They were aware of that by Thursday or Friday because Andy Card and I were communicating at that point," Mr. Brown told a special House committee investigating the government's response. "In fact, I remember saying to Andy at one point that this is going to be a bad one. They were focused about it. They knew it."

In his testimony, Mr. Brown was careful not to blame President Bush or the White House for the government's handling of the situation. But his comments raised questions about whether the White House responded aggressively enough in light of the warnings Mr. Brown said he offered.

The version of events Mr. Brown gave Tuesday expanded on an account he gave to The New York Times earlier this month, shortly after resigning as the director of FEMA on Sept. 12, amid complaints that he was an inexperienced manager who seemed out of touch with the disastrous events unfolding in the Gulf Coast region.

In the interview, he said he had placed a round of frantic telephone calls to his boss, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, and to Mr. Card's office only after the scale of the disaster became apparent to him on Aug. 29, once the hurricane had passed New Orleans.

He did not mention his earlier warning to Mr. Card then.

Responding to Mr. Brown's testimony, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, issued a statement Tuesday night that said, in part: "Yes, we were very focused on it. We were acting ahead of the storm because we recognized it was an extremely dangerous hurricane. That is why the president issued an emergency declaration for Louisiana on Saturday and one for Mississippi early Sunday, and urged the governors to evacuate citizens ahead of the storm."

In his appearance before Congress on Tuesday, Mr. Brown continued to place much of the blame for the botched response on Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, the governor of Louisiana. That provoked an angry response from several members of the committee, who repeatedly attacked Mr. Brown's competence.

In particular, Mr. Brown recalled his repeated attempts to persuade the governor to order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans before one was finally issued by Mayor C. Ray Nagin on the morning of Aug. 28. Mr. Brown said the failure to evacuate earlier "was a tipping point for all other failures" that followed in the government response.

He also suggested that infighting among officials in Louisiana hampered the effort, recalling how he was unable to "persuade" the governor and the mayor "to sit down, get over their differences and work together."

But lawmakers expressed outrage at his refusal to take greater responsibility for his agency's failures.

"I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans," said Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana.

"I think it's fair to say that perhaps mistakes were made all around," Mr. Jefferson continued, "but I don't think the response of the federal government can be explained on the basis of, as you have said here, you could not persuade the governor and the mayor to sit down and coordinate a response."

Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, scornfully compared Mr. Brown with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, who was widely praised for his leadership after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I can't help but wonder how different the answers would be if someone like Rudy Giuliani had been in your position instead of you," Mr. Shays said. Mr. Brown responded angrily, saying, "I never thought I'd sit here and be berated because I'm not Rudy Giuliani."

    Ex-FEMA Director Says He Issued Early Warnings, NYT, 28.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/national/nationalspecial/28response.html

 

 

 

 

 

Consumer confidence plunges

 

Tue Sep 27, 2005 12:22 PM ET
Reuters
By Ellen Freilich

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence plunged in September, a report said on Tuesday, damaged by Hurricane Katrina, higher gasoline prices and a more pessimistic view of the job outlook.

The Conference Board said its gauge of consumer sentiment "plummeted" in September to 86.6 from 105.5 in August. A Reuters poll of economists had culled a median forecast for a smaller, but still substantial, drop in the index to 95.0.

The business research group said the devastation from Katrina in late August, coupled with soaring energy prices and a souring view of employment prospects, pushed confidence to its lowest since a reading of 81.7 in October 2003.

These factors "created a degree of uncertainty and concern about the short-term future," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center.

Historically, though, such shocks have had a short-term impact on confidence, especially on consumers' expectations, Franco added.

The group's present situation index slumped to 108.9 in September from 123.8 while its expectations index fell steeply to 71.7 from 93.3.

Consumer spending is the backbone of the U.S. economy, accounting for some two-thirds of activity, so changes in confidence are seen as a possible precursor to softer or stronger growth.

But Ken Mayland, president of Clearview Economics, said the confidence plunge represented "more of an emotional response to the recent woes and gives very little insight into consumer spending behavior."

 

VIEW OF CURRENT CONDITIONS WORSENS

Consumers' overall assessment of ongoing conditions was less favorable in September. Those asserting that business conditions were good declined to 25.2 percent in September from 29.7 percent in August. Those claiming that business conditions were bad rose to 17.7 percent from 15.1 percent.

The employment picture also bleakened in consumers' eyes with the portion of respondents saying that jobs were hard to get rising to 25.4 percent in September from 23.1 percent in August. The portion of respondents claiming that jobs were plentiful fell to 20.1 percent from 23.6 percent.

 

BLEAK OUTLOOK FOR NEXT SIX MONTHS

Consumers' outlook for the next six months turned "considerably pessimistic," the Conference Board said.

The proportion of consumers anticipating their incomes to decrease in the months ahead rose to 10.8 percent in September from 8.9 percent in August.

Those expecting business conditions to worsen jumped to 19.8 percent in September from 10.0 percent in August.

Meanwhile, respondents expecting business conditions to improve fell to 15.3 percent from 18.7 percent.

 

JOB OUTLOOK SOURS

The outlook on the labor market also soured, with those expecting more jobs to become available in the coming months decreasing to 14.0 percent in September from 16.4 percent in August. Those expecting fewer jobs to become available jumped to 25.0 percent, up from 17.3 percent.

    Consumer confidence plunges, R, 27.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2005-09-27T162209Z_01_MOR750474_RTRUKOC_0_US-ECONOMY-CONSUMERS.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Former FEMA Director

Admits Errors in Response Effort

 

September 27, 2005
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former FEMA director Michael Brown aggressively defended his role in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday and put much of the blame for coordination failures on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown told a special congressional panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe.

The storm slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday, Aug. 29.

Brown's defense drew a scathing response from Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.

"I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans."

Brown, who for many became a symbol of government failures in the natural disaster that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, rejected accusations that he was too inexperienced for the job.

"I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," Brown said.

Brown resigned as the head of FEMA earlier this month after being removed by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff from responsibility in the stricken areas. Brown, who joined FEMA in 2001 and ran it for more than two years, was previously an attorney who held several local government and private posts, including leading the International Arabian Horse Association.

Brown in his opening statement said he had made several "specific mistakes" in dealing with the storm, and listed two.

One, he said, was not having more media briefings.

As to the other, he said: "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off."

Both Blanco and Nagin are Democrats.

"The people of FEMA are being tired of being beat up, and they don't deserve it," Brown said.

The hearing was largely boycotted by Democrats, who want an independent investigation conducted into government failures, not one run by congressional Republicans.

But Jefferson -- who is not a committee member -- accepted the panel's invitation to grill Brown.

Referring to Brown's description of his "mistakes," Jefferson said: "I think that's a very weak explanation of what happened, and very incomplete explanation of what happened. I don't think that's going to cut it, really."

Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., cautioned against too narrowly assigning blame.

"At the end of the day, I suspect that we'll find that government at all levels failed the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and the Gulf Coast," said Davis.

Davis pushed Brown on what he and the agency he led should have done to evacuate New Orleans, restore order in the city and improve communication among law enforcement agencies.

Brown said: "Those are not FEMA roles. FEMA doesn't evacuate communities. FEMA does not do law enforcement. FEMA does not do communications."

In part of his testimony, Brown pumped his hand up and down for emphasis.

Brown said the lack of a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans before the storm was "the tipping point for all the other things that went wrong." Brown said he had personally pushed Louisiana Gov. Blanco to order such an evacuation.

He did not have the authority to order the city evacuated on his own, Brown said.

When asked by Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky, whether the lack of an ordered evacuation was "the proximate cause of most people's misery," Brown said, "Yes."

    Former FEMA Director Admits Errors in Response Effort, NYT, 27.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Katrina-Brown.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stone plaque with an inscription

has been placed on the porch area of the Harbour Oaks Inn in Pass Christian, Miss.

 

Jim Wilson/The New York Times        26.9.2005

 

Portrait of Mississippi Victims: Safety of Home Was a Mirage        NYT        27.9.2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/national/nationalspecial/27mississippi.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Portrait of Mississippi Victims:

Safety of Home Was a Mirage

 

September 27, 2005
The New York Times
By SEWELL CHAN

 

GULFPORT, Miss., Sept. 23 - Most of the victims were in their 60's or older. Nearly all drowned. Their bodies were found inside or just outside their destroyed houses.

In the days and hours before Hurricane Katrina arrived, they spoke with relatives and friends who pleaded with them to go, and many had the means to do so. But having survived Hurricane Camille, which killed at least 131 Mississippians in 1969, they apparently never believed that this new storm could be worse.

Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina emerged out of the Gulf of Mexico, the State of Mississippi has confirmed 220 deaths and publicly identified about 95 victims, allowing the first detailed glimpse into the lives that were lost in the hurricane, principally from a storm surge that reached as high as 30 feet and swept miles inland, pushing away most objects in its path.

The storm claimed lives in nearly every coastal Mississippi town and city from Pascagoula in the east to Pearlington in the west. Many drowned in rising water that trapped them in their attics. Others were swept away by the surge that engulfed and destroyed their houses.

A handful of victims who were hit by falling debris have had blunt-force trauma listed as a contributing cause of death.

As more bodies are identified, the full portrait of the victims could shift, but several themes emerged from interviews with more than 40 family members, coroners, government officials and directors of funeral homes.

Of those identified so far, many were retired blue-collar workers who had put in decades of work and were at a stage of their life where they relished companionship and the familiarity of their houses.

In contrast to those who could not leave New Orleans, many had the vehicles to leave but did not because their spouses were frail, because they could not bear to leave their pets or because younger relatives had agreed to stay behind with them.

Some had spent their lives on the Gulf Coast and had never traveled farther than New Orleans. Others were drawn to the warm climate and the white sands of the shoreline.

There was Horace J. Necaise Jr., 78, a union ironworker whose ancestors settled in De Lisle and Pass Christian in the mid-19th century. Mr. Necaise had served in the Navy in World War II, was a volunteer firefighter and raised seven children.

There was Eugene Garcia, 72, a carpenter who had nine children by three wives. Mr. Garcia retired on disability, suffered from congestive heart failure and diabetes, and used a wheelchair to get around his house in Lake Shore.

There was Lando Bishop, 75, a laborer who paid $150 a month for a three-room house in Biloxi that he shared with his nephew. Skinny and balding and with a toothless smile, Mr. Bishop spent his days sitting on the porch watching traffic go by.

There were also victims of wide-ranging and unusual accomplishment.

Dr. Louis T. Maxey Sr., 92, born in Indianapolis, had degrees in pharmaceutical sciences, dentistry and medicine, and was one of the first African-Americans to be a resident physician in plastic and maxillofacial surgery at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Maxey's wife, Harneitha, 75, was born in Seneca, S.C., and helped manage her husband's practice and later became active in local Democratic Party politics.

The couple moved to Gulfport from Milwaukee about 25 years ago and stayed after Dr. Maxey retired in 1993.

Marie L. Knoblock, 64, was a licensed practical nurse. Born in New Orleans, she enjoyed fishing for trout, flounder and drum, and preparing gumbo and pot roast. Ms. Knoblock died after she became trapped in her house.

Levin M. Dawson, 64, was a poet, a Buddhist and a vegan. He practiced yoga, did not own a car and used his bicycle to go everywhere. Each day, Mr. Dawson biked from his sister's vacation home in Waveland, where he lived year-round, to read to his 94-year-old mother at a nursing home.

The middle of five children, Mr. Dawson received a Ph.D. in English from Rice University in Houston, where he studied Romantic poetry and wrote a dissertation on John Keats. He taught at the University of New Orleans before quitting to write poetry and work at odd jobs.

J. Anthony Brugger, 64, was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Pennsylvania and, after four years in the Marines, went to college in Missouri and received an M.B.A. in Hawaii.

In 1991, Mr. Brugger and his wife, Diane, visited friends who had moved to Long Beach. On a whim, the couple decided to buy a house in Pass Christian and open a bed-and-breakfast.

The site, the Harbour Oaks Inn, opened that October with five rooms - four were added this January - and became popular among tourists, particularly after riverboat gambling began in 1992.

Van A. Schultz, 69, an Army veteran born in Utah, met his wife in Las Vegas when he was a hospital administrator there.

They moved to Bay St. Louis, her hometown, where Mr. Schultz took over his father-in-law's roofing business. His wife, Lydia, opened a store that sold bird feeders, baths and supplies.

The couple loved hummingbirds, and even after they divorced three years ago, Mr. Schultz continued to hang bird feeders on the corners of the house that they had built. In retirement, he worked part time as an insurance-loss adjuster and traveled to Orlando, Fla., last year to assess damage after Hurricane Charley.

Nancy B. Murphy, 86, the second of nine children, had traveled to Hawaii with her brother and to Venezuela to visit her sister, a nun there. Miss Murphy never married or had children; she kept many friends.

She met her best friend, Edith Beckett, when they worked together at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi in World War II. Miss Murphy worked for decades as an insurance agent, selling casualty and property policies.

Her brother R. Michael, a retired speech pathologist, lived less than a mile away in Bay St. Louis, and each day he and his wife, Jane, visited Miss Murphy and brewed coffee for her.

Across southern Mississippi, one topic - whether to evacuate - was on everyone's mind over the weekend of Aug. 27 and 28.

Many victims who died in the storm had been urged to leave. Some refused outright. Others went back and forth on the decision. Still others tentatively agreed but changed their minds at the last minute.

Mr. Schultz's two daughters pleaded with him to leave. "He said, 'The property didn't get water during Camille - I'll be fine,' " his older daughter, Brooke M. Schultz of Woodstock, Ga., said. "It was pretty heated. He just didn't want to leave."

Dr. and Mrs. Maxey evacuated their home last year for Hurricane Ivan and joined their youngest son, Roger, in Jackson.

"With traffic, it took them eight hours to reach Jackson," recalled James T. Maxey, another son, who was staying with his parents when Hurricane Katrina hit. "Normally, it's a three-hour drive. It was difficult for my mother to travel with my father. He was 92 and he'd been sick. He couldn't do anything by himself. It was difficult for her to get him in and out of the car."

Hurricane Ivan delivered just a few inches of rain to Mississippi, and the Maxeys decided afterward that they did not want to evacuate again.

"I wanted us to leave, purely as a precautionary measure," James Maxey said. "I thought the house would be O.K. When they were fairly adamant about staying, I said, 'All right.' "

Some victims were worried about their belongings or pets. Mr. Bishop, who often spent time on his porch, did not want to leave his Ford pickup behind and told his nephew, who had evacuated, that he would follow.

"He was just messing around," a niece, Mary N. Jones of Ocean Springs, Miss., said. "Two or three people came back to get him. He said he was coming on his own. He didn't want to leave his truck there. He was going to take it with him."

Ms. Knoblock, the widow who liked to garden, knew it would be difficult to take her chow chow, Jimmy, and her Labrador, Herman, to a shelter. Besides, her daughter Kim was with her, along with her two chow chows.

"I pleaded with her, and my brother pleaded with her," said her daughter Angelique Mulina, the youngest of three siblings. "I knew, and my brother knew, what was coming. But she wasn't seeing it, and neither was my sister."

Many victims died with their spouses or children. In Bay St. Louis, Kim E. Bell, 51, and her son Steforno, 21. In Pass Christian, Samuel F. Tart, 51, and his son, John, 2. In Ocean Springs, James E. Hyre, 83, and his wife, Shamsi, 75. His body was found in their house, hers just outside, presumably swept along by the surge.

In at least two instances, the deluge swallowed entire families.

In Ocean Springs, Nadine A. Gifford died in her house with her husband, Ted; her daughter Linda A. deSilvey; and her granddaughter Donna K. deSilvey.

In Waveland, four members of the Bane family, Edgar and Christina and their sons, Edgar Jr., 15, and Carl, 13, drowned in their modest one-story brick house.

Mr. Bane, a stocker at Wal-Mart, and Mrs. Bane, a hotel housekeeper, worried about their sons, who had autism.

"One of the reasons they wouldn't evacuate or go to a shelter is that they were afraid the boys would be picked on," Mrs. Bane's youngest sister, Rachel R. Rimmer of Ridgefield, said. "They were very protective of them."

On Aug. 28, the night before the storm, Mr. and Mrs. Brugger, the innkeepers, provided food at their bed-and-breakfast for emergency workers who had gathered in Pass Christian to prepare for the aftermath of the storm. On the morning of Aug. 29, Mr. Brugger was interviewed by telephone by Pulse 24, a television news program in Toronto.

"We just found out by watching on the battery-powered TV that the eye of the storm is apparently tracking this way," Mr. Brugger said. "I don't think we're going to have the eye come over us, but it's going to be just to the west of us, which is a little bit worrisome."

Asked why he did not leave, Mr. Brugger replied: "The house was built in 1860. We've got 15 years of sweat in it, restoring it. It was an old hotel, and it's been through some big storms. It's the highest spot in town. Our elevation is about 30 feet. So we can usually ride out the storm surge."

Mr. Brugger died that morning when the storm obliterated the inn, which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nothing was left but the concrete porch.

The mourning in Mississippi has begun in earnest. At the funeral homes that Hurricane Katrina did not destroy, there are waits up to four weeks to schedule services. Some families have chosen to skip the church eulogies and hold a simple graveside service. Cremation has become more popular.

As the detritus from the storm is cleared, the death toll could grow. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the hurricane left 18 million to 20 million cubic yards of debris in Mississippi alone, the equivalent of 200 football fields piled 50 feet high, and that it will take eight months to clear the roadways.

Coroners are hiring so-called spotters to check the landfills for signs of remains.

In Pass Christian, a stone plaque has been placed on the porch of what used to be the Harbour Oaks Inn. This inscription was on it:

Our hearts still ache in sadness,

and secret tears still flow.

What it meant to lose you,

no one will ever know.

Research for this article was contributed by Happy Blitt, Alain Delaquérière, Sandra Jamison, Toby Lyles and Carolyn Wilder.

    Portrait of Mississippi Victims: Safety of Home Was a Mirage, NYT, 27.9.2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/national/nationalspecial/27mississippi.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the home of Dr. Louis T. Maxey Sr., a surgeon, and Harneitha Maxey,

who was active in the Democratic Party, stood in Long Beach, Miss.

 

Jim Wilson/The New York Times        copiée 27.9.2005

Portrait of Mississippi Victims: Safety of Home Was a Mirage        NYT        27.9.2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/national/nationalspecial/27mississippi.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many Contracts for Storm Work

Raise Questions

 

September 26, 2005
The New York Times
By ERIC LIPTON and RON NIXON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 - Topping the federal government's list of costs related to Hurricane Katrina is the $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company with ties to Mississippi's Republican governor. Near the bottom is an $89.95 bill for a pair of brown steel-toe shoes bought by an Environmental Protection Agency worker in Baton Rouge, La.

The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. Most of those were for clearing away the trees, homes and cars strewn across the region; purchasing trailers and mobile homes; or providing trucks, ships, buses and planes.

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.

"Most, if not all, of these people down there were trying to do the right thing," he said. "They were under a lot of pressure and they took a lot of shortcuts that may have resulted in a lot of waste."

Congress appropriated $62.3 billion in emergency financing after Hurricane Katrina struck. So far, a total of $15.8 billion has been allocated from a FEMA-managed disaster relief fund, of which $11.6 billion has been committed through contracts, direct aid to individuals or work performed by government agencies.

An examination of the contracts granted to date and interviews with state and federal officials raised concerns about some of the awards.

Some industry and government officials questioned the costs of the debris-removal contracts, saying the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed a rate that was too high. And Congressional investigators are looking into the $568 million awarded to AshBritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

The investigators are asking how much money AshBritt will collect and, in turn, what it will pay subcontractors performing the work, said a House investigator who did not want her name used because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The contracts also show considerable price disparities: travel trailers costing $15,000 to $23,000, housing inspection services that documents suggest could cost $15 to $81 per home, and ferries and ships being used for temporary housing that cost $13 million to $70 million for six months.

For some smaller companies, the recovery work will be an extraordinary test. For example, Aduddell Roofing and Sheet Metal, an Oklahoma City business run by a former steer wrestler, shares with a partner a $60 million contract to install temporary roofing on houses in Mississippi. Aduddell's single biggest contract before this was for $5 million, company executives said.

Some businesses awarded large contracts have long records of performing similar work, but they also have had some problems. CH2M Hill and the Fluor Corporation, two global engineering companies awarded a total of $250 million in contracts, were previously cited by regulators for safety violations at a weapons plant cleanup.

The Bechtel Corporation, awarded a contract that could be worth $100 million, is under scrutiny for its oversight of the "Big Dig" construction project in Boston. And Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service. All of the companies have publicly defended their performance.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, complained that FEMA and other federal agencies were delivering too much of the work to giant corporations with political connections, instead of local companies or minority-owned businesses.

"There is just more of the good-old-boy system, taking care of its political allies," Mr. Thompson said. "FEMA and the others have put out these contracts in such a haphazard manner, I don't know how they can come up with anything that is accountable to the taxpayers."

As of last week, the federal government was spending more than $263 million a day on the recovery effort.

"There was a crisis situation and a lot of very quick contracting was done," said Greg Rothwell, the chief procurement officer at the Department of Homeland Security. "We will be looking at every invoice we get to make sure we were not paying extraordinary prices."

While several federal agencies have approved contracts, FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, by design, have spent the most so far, according to the list of contracts from federal government agencies assembled by The New York Times.

Much of the spending has been in large amounts, but the contracts also include entries like $80,000 from a company called Bama Jama for clothing adorned with the E.P.A. logo and $3,300 for Doc's Laundry and Linen in Baton Rouge.

Rapidly buying the goods and services needed to respond to an emergency is difficult for any government agency. Federal contracting rules allow agencies to approve deals without standard competitive bidding in "urgent and compelling circumstances."

To provide some safeguards, federal agencies can hold an open competition in advance for products routinely needed in emergencies. Such agreements are known as "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity," or I.D.I.Q. contracts.

The Defense Department relied on that type of contract in assigning Kellogg, Brown & Root to perform more than $45 million in repairs to levees in New Orleans and military facilities in the gulf region.

Records show, however, that FEMA did not use this approach for the blue sheeting used to cover holes in roofs, a standard item in the disaster tool kit. Instead, the agency bought $6.6 million of the material from All American Poly of Piscataway, N.J., on Sept. 13, without full competitive bidding.

Before signing contracts with mobile-home and travel-trailer makers worth in excess of $1 billion, FEMA said it did solicit bids. But the awards were made without the standard open competition required for government contracts.

Mr. Rothwell, of the Homeland Security Department, said FEMA needed to expand its number of I.D.I.Q. agreements so that when disasters struck it could bring in contractors more quickly and at a competitive price.

The two most expensive services the government has signed contracts for so far are manufactured housing and debris removal, which alone have totaled $2 billion, according to contracting records.

The debris contracts have attracted the scrutiny of investigators from the House Homeland Security Committee, in part because of the price agreed to by the Army Corps of Engineers.

AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.

But three communities in Mississippi, which found their own contractors rather than accept the terms offered by AshBritt, have negotiated contracts of $10.64 a cubic yard to $18.25 a cubic yard, including collection, processing and disposal.

And other experts have questioned AshBritt's fees. "Let me put it to you this way: If $15 was my best price, I would rebid it," said Mike Carroll, a municipal official in Orlando, Fla., with experience in hurricane cleanup.

AshBritt has cleaned up debris for FEMA and other government agencies after other hurricanes. Besides possessing a huge roster of subcontractors and the logistics expertise to route hundreds of trucks, the company is also politically well connected.

According to Senate filings, AshBritt paid about $40,000 in the first half of 2005 to Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the Washington lobbying firm co-founded by Governor Barbour of Mississippi, who is also a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

AshBritt officials declined to comment on the Hurricane Katrina contracts. Jean Todd, a federal contracting officer who helps oversee the AshBritt deal for the Army Corps of Engineers, said she was determined to ensure that the price was fair.

"We have auditors that will be looking at all of this," Ms. Todd said.

FEMA has led the effort to line up contractors to install tens of thousand of temporary homes. The scale of the job is still unclear - depending on demand, FEMA may downsize its plans - but the agency has been rushing to buy as many travel trailers and mobile homes as it can. It has signed five contracts each worth more than $100 million with major manufacturers. And it has scoured the country, buying up whatever it can find on dealers' lots.

That has turned into a bonanza for businesses like Wagner's RV Center in Suamico, Wis., which sold 69 trailers to FEMA for $1.3 million.

"In a single sale, we cleared out most of our leftover inventory from the 2005 model year," said Leonard Wagner, the owner of the RV center. "That does not happen very often."

For some small businesses, what started off as big contracts have quickly grown into giant ones. Aduddell Roofing, the Oklahoma City business, was first hired with a partner on a $10 million contract. In a matter of weeks, that deal had grown into a $60 million contract.

The project is being run by Timothy Aduddell, the company's president, who until recently was on the professional rodeo circuit, said Ron Carte, the chief executive of Zenex International, the company that owns Aduddell.

"You have to be there to see it," Mr. Carte said of the hurricane work. "As Mr. Aduddell says, 'It's pretty cowboy.' "

Eric Dash and Leslie Eaton contributed reporting from New York for this article.

    Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions, NYT, 26.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/26/national/nationalspecial/26spend.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edgar and Christina Bane drowned with their sons, Edgar Jr. and Carl,

in their house in Waveland, Miss.

 

Jim Wilson/The New York Times        added 27.9.2005

 

Portrait of Mississippi Victims: Safety of Home Was a Mirage        NYT        27.9.2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/national/nationalspecial/27mississippi.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the Bane home.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times        added 27.9.2005

Portrait of Mississippi Victims: Safety of Home Was a Mirage        NYT        27.9.2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/national/nationalspecial/27mississippi.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strippers help

tease back New Orleans nightlife

 

Thu Sep 22, 2005
8:37 AM ET
Reuters
By Matt Daily

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - In a sign that things may be returning to normal in New Orleans, strip shows are back in the city's famous French Quarter.

Erotic dancers and strippers are entertaining crowds of police, firefighters and military personnel instead of the usual audiences of drunken conventioneers and tourists in Bourbon Street's Deja Vu club, which reopened this week.

It's the first strip joint to resume business, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck in the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States.

"It's nice to get back to work, and all these men need some entertainment," Dawn Beasley, 27, a dancer at the club, said on Tuesday night. "They haven't seen anybody but their buddies for two weeks."

The crowd hooted and hollered as women peeled off their tops and gyrated, as customers tucked tips into their G-strings.

"This is our first time off the ship and it's great," said one young sailor as he left the club. He declined to give his name or say where he was stationed.

"It's good to see the businesses getting back up and bringing the city back," another sailor said.

New Orleans' strip clubs have long been a fixture of Bourbon Street, where marquees promise everything from "barely legal" dancers to transvestite divas. Photos of the seedy shows inside the clubs line the windows, next to scores of bars in the district that draws tourists from around the globe.

The city's dusk-to-dawn curfew failed to prevent the Deja Vu from staying open to the early hours, with blaring music and neon lights spilling out into the Quarter, most of which remained bathed in darkness in the aftermath of the storm.

"We were open till two last night, just long enough to get the testosterone flowing," Beasley said.

Only a handful of restaurants and bars in the Quarter have reopened in recent days, serving food and drinks -- usually without charge -- to rescue workers and military who stream through the mostly empty streets. The Deja Vu waived its cover charge, drinks were selling for $3 and a private dance was available for just $1.

For Deja Vu manager Brent Ardeneaux, reopening was a public service.

"It's a disaster zone. You got a lot of people in from out of town that need entertaining," he said as he unloaded supplies from the back of a pick-up truck.

The club even drew several women looking for a respite from their duties patrolling the city, but they resisted entreaties to join the others on stage and left after a few minutes.

One of them, a soldier, said: "We were just looking for any place open. We've been working hard."

    Strippers help tease back New Orleans nightlife, R, 22.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=2005-09-22T123507Z_01_SPI168958_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-STRIPPERS.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Economy was wavering before Katrina

 

Thu Sep 22, 2005
1:13 PM ET
Reuters
By Ros Krasny

 

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. economy may have been losing steam even before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late August, a gauge of likely future conditions showed on Thursday as Hurricane Rita bore down on the Texas oil patch.

Leading economic indicators fell by 0.2 percent in August, slightly less than the median forecast for a 0.3 percent decline, according to the New York-based Conference Board.

Katrina's fallout on the jobs market continued as weekly U.S. jobless claims spiked to the highest in over two years.

July's indicators were revised to show a 0.1 percent drop from an original 0.1 percent increase.

The index has risen only 1.9 percent over the past year.

As recently as March 2004 the year-on-year growth rate was 10 percent, said Steven Wood, economist at Insight Economics.

"The general slowing in the growth of the leading indicators over the past year suggests the pace of economic growth should gradually slow over the next three to six to nine months," Wood said.

Only three of 10 components in the index made negative contributions but the biggest -- lower consumer expectations -- was a hefty one. That trend continued into September, according to the latest University of Michigan sentiment survey.

"We expect a big drop in September: Katrina has depressed sentiment and pushed up jobless claims," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Another index that tracks a range of economic data -- the Chicago Federal Reserve's national activity index, slipped in August but still suggested above-trend growth as well as the potential for inflationary pressure over the next year.

The reports had little impact on financial markets, which were watching crude oil prices as Hurricane Rita veered toward the Texas Gulf Coast and major energy facilities, which could drive up energy prices if production and refining capacity is damaged or temporarily suspended.

Soaring energy prices are an indirect tax on consumption as people have less to spend after paying more for gasoline and heating oil, while higher fuel costs also hurt industry.

Stock prices were marginally lower on the data, continuing the week's trend, and Treasury yields were narrowly mixed.

"Most of the market is looking at Rita," said John Shin, senior economist at Lehman Brothers. That storm, still a dangerous Category 5 with sustained winds of 165 mph (265 kph), looks set to tear through major U.S. energy facilities.

 

CLAIMS STILL FEEL STORM'S IMPACT

Katrina's aftermath continued to roil a jobs market that had been showing improvement before the storm struck.

The Labor Department said the number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose to 432,000 in the week to September 17, up from a revised 424,000 a week ago. The prior week's claims had been originally reported at 398,000.

For several months before Katrina, weekly claims had hovered a tad above 300,000, consistent with a string of solid monthly increases in payrolls figures.

"Katrina appears to account for the entire increase relative to the preceding baseline of about 320,000," economists at Goldman Sachs said in a research note.

The previous week's change was the biggest seasonally adjusted one-week rise since July 25, 1992, when a strike caused a shutdown at General Motors Corp. plants.

Unadjusted for seasonal factors, jobless claims linked to Katrina totaled 194,000 in the past two weeks.

The latest claims data are for the week in which numbers are normally collected for the monthly U.S. payrolls report.

Collecting claims data from hurricane survivors has been a challenge, with staff in some cases visiting shelters in the Gulf region with clipboards to interview displaced jobless.

The four-week moving average of claims, a more reliable barometer because it smoothes out weekly volatility, rose to its highest since November 8, 2003.

(Additional reporting by Nancy Waitz in Washington)

    Economy was wavering before Katrina, R, 22.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-22T171246Z_01_MOR248331_RTRUKOC_0_US-ECONOMY.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Jobless claims

surge on Hurricane Katrina

 

Thu Sep 22, 2005 8:37 AM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina's aftermath fueled a surge in initial U.S. claims for jobless aid last week to 432,000, the highest level in more than two years, the government said on Thursday.

The number of Americans requesting first-time unemployment benefits rose a relatively modest 8,000 the week ended September 17 after a revised 97,000 jump the prior week. The previous week's change was the biggest seasonally adjusted one-week jump since July 25, 1992.

Private economists had expected claims would rise to 440,000 from the Labor Department's original reading of 398,000 in the September 10 week.

Unadjusted for seasonal factors, jobless claims linked to the deadly storm that claimed more than 1,000 lives and wreaked havoc on infrastructure totaled 103,000 last week and 91,000 the week before.

A Labor Department analyst said many of the claims had been filed by unconventional means, which may lead to future revisions in the numbers. Katrina's effects on the claims data are likely to linger for some weeks.

The four-week moving average of claims, a more reliable barometer because it smooths weekly volatility, rose to its highest level since November 8, 2003.

The moving average of claims rose to 376,250 from 347,250 the previous week.

    Jobless claims surge on Hurricane Katrina, R, 22.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2005-09-22T123516Z_01_MOR245297_RTRUKOC_0_US-ECONOMY-USA-JOBLESS.xml

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Guardian        pp. 20-21        22.9.2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina death toll tops 1,000

 

Wed Sep 21, 2005 2:08 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - The death toll from Hurricane Katrina climbed to 1,037 after Louisiana officials on Wednesday raised the number of confirmed fatalities in that state to 799.

There were 219 dead in Mississippi and 19 deaths confirmed in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee from the August 29 storm.

Louisiana, the state hardest hit by the hurricane with flooding in New Orleans, raised its death toll from the 736 it had reported as of Monday evening.

Mississippi officials did not return calls for comment on the latest numbers in that state, which last updated its death toll late last week.

    Katrina death toll tops 1,000, R, 21.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-21T180701Z_01_SPI161298_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-TOLL.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Support for Bush's Iraq policy

dives after Katrina

 

Wed Sep 21, 2005 1:06 PM ET
Reuters
By Alan Elsner

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. public support for President George W. Bush's Iraq policy has nosedived in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but this seems unlikely to force the administration to change tack, political analysts said on Wednesday.

"Katrina has changed many things but I don't think it will change Iraq policy. There is almost no elasticity in that policy," said Danielle Pletka of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, an acknowledged supporter both of Bush and his Iraq policy.

Political scientist Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University agreed. "There's no way back for Bush on Iraq. He can't run away from that policy. He has to secure something he can plausibly point to as success."

Public support for the president on Iraq had been gradually eroding in the past year as the U.S. military death toll mounted toward 2,000 and little progress was made in stopping a bloody insurgency that began soon after the 2003 invasion.

But backing for his policy, that U.S. troops would stay until Iraqis can establish a government and army that can govern and defend itself, has dropped dramatically since Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi.

A Gallup poll published on Monday found 66 percent of respondents favored the immediate withdrawal of some or all of the U.S. troops in Iraq, a 10 percentage point jump in two weeks.

Bush's personal approval on Iraq fell from 40 percent to 32 percent in the same period. In a CBS/New York Times poll the previous week, 75 percent said Bush had no clear plan for bringing U.S. troops home.

Republicans in Congress, who know they face difficult mid-term elections in November 2006, are becoming increasingly concerned about their prospects.

"The mood up here among Republicans is very very sour," said one senior staffer who did not want to be named.

For many Americans, the connection between Katrina and Iraq comes down to one word -- money.

"Americans want to attend to the needs of people at home before we take care of people overseas," said Steven Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University. "But this president rarely if ever goes back on his own decisions and his legacy is largely connected to Iraq."

 

NEW CONTEXT

Said Jillson, "People know we're running huge deficits and they know the costs have just rocketed upward. Many Americans are now looking at the Iraq situation in that context."

Congress has already approved $62.3 billion for recovery and reconstruction after Katrina and the eventual cost could reach $200 billion or more.

The Iraq war and occupation have cost over $200 billion so far. The United States is spending $5.6 billion a month there, or almost $186 million a day.

Some Republicans, like Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, had been arguing even before the hurricane hit that the current Iraq policy was unsustainable.

"We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should," he said in an interview last month.

More and more Republicans may break with the president in coming months if U.S. casualties continue to mount in Iraq and the country seems no nearer to stability.

But the party as a whole had little choice other than to stick with Bush, said political scientist David Birdsell of Baruch College in New York City.

"They don't have anywhere to go. If they should go in a different direction, then which direction?" he said.

Democrats, who up to now have been reluctant to criticize the Iraq policy for fear of seeming unpatriotic, may also feel more able to do so.

"So far, the Democrats have been cowardly and unwilling to speak out. They need to do so if they want to reap the political benefits of Bush's unpopularity," said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think-tank which opposed the Iraq invasion and occupation.

    Support for Bush's Iraq policy dives after Katrina, R, 21.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-21T170610Z_01_SPI159327_RTRUKOC_0_US-IRAQ-KATRINA.xml

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design Flaws Seen in New Orleans Flood Walls        NYT        21.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/21/national/nationalspecial/21walls.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design Flaws Seen in New Orleans Flood Walls

NYT        21.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/21/national/nationalspecial/21walls.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Design Flaws

Seen in New Orleans Flood Walls

 

September 21, 2005
The New York Times

By CHRISTOPHER DREW
and ANDREW C. REVKIN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 20 - Along the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, great earthen levees were ample to hold off much of the surging water propelled by Hurricane Katrina.

But concrete flood walls installed over the last several decades along the drainage and barge canals cutting into New Orleans were built in a way that by Army Corps of Engineers standards left them potentially unstable in a flood, according to government documents and interviews. The walls collapsed in several places during the storm.

A corps engineering manual cautions that such flood walls "rarely exceed" seven feet because they can lose stability as waters rise. But some of the New Orleans canal walls rose as high as 11 feet above dirt berms in which they were anchored.

As a result of federal budget constraints, the walls were never tested for their ability to withstand the cascades of lake water that rushed up to, or over, their tops as storm waves pulsed through the canals on Aug. 29, corps and local officials say.

Hurricane Katrina was the first serious test of the flood walls, said Stevan Spencer, chief engineer for the Orleans Levee District, and it "just overwhelmed the system."

Since the storm, corps officials have said that there is a simple explanation for the devastation: Hurricane Katrina was a Category 4 storm and Congress authorized a flood control system to handle only a Category 3 storm. "Anything above that, all bets are off," said Al Naomi, a senior project manager in the corps's New Orleans district.

But federal meteorologists say that New Orleans did not get the full brunt of the storm, because its strongest winds passed dozens of miles east of the city. While a formal analysis of the storm's strength and surges will take months, the National Hurricane Center said the sustained winds over Lake Pontchartrain reached only 95 miles per hour, while Category 3 storms are defined by sustained winds of 111 to 130 m.p.h.

This raises a series of questions about how the walls that failed were designed and constructed, as well as whether the soil in some spots was too weak to hold them. Investigations by federal engineers and outside experts are just now beginning.

One factor could be height, said Robert G. Bea, a former corps engineer and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is part of a National Science Foundation inquiry into the flood controls failures. The higher the wall, Professor Bea said, the greater the risk it could tip under the ever greater pressure of rising waters.

The 2000 edition of the Army Corps of Engineers manual "Design and Construction of Levees" says that the height of flood walls built on levees is an important factor in their ability to withstand a flood. For that reason, the manual says walls like those used in New Orleans "rarely exceed" seven feet. But on two of the three canals where breaks occurred - the 17th Street and London Avenue canals - the concrete sections rise 11 feet above the dirt berms.

Each wall resembles a row of teeth set in a jaw. Individual slabs are anchored to a continuous steel sheet buried in the dirt, giving the wall its strength. Above a short foundation, the slabs are linked only by rubbery gaskets that allow the concrete to expand and contract without cracking.

Hassan S. Mashriqui, an engineering professor at Louisiana State University and an expert on storm surges, said the segmented nature of the walls could be an additional problem, since any weak point could cause a catastrophic failure.

"Since they're not tied together you get a little bit of a gap and that's what water needs to make it fail," Dr. Mashriqui said.

Other questions surround the walls' design, known as an "I-wall" for its slim cross section that fits easily into densely developed areas.

The corps manual for flood control construction suggests a different design for walls higher than seven feet - walls shaped like an inverted T, with the horizontal section buried in the dirt for extra stability.

But that option was never considered, corps engineers said, because "T walls" were more expensive, required a broad base of dense soil for support and were not necessarily stronger.

The corps and local levee authorities also never tested whether the chosen I-wall design could survive if water flowed over the top and cascaded onto dirt embankments below.

Corps officials said they were proscribed from considering stronger wall designs for the canals both by the tight quarters and by federal law, which requires that they seek and study only the level of flood control authorized by Congress.

"Our hands are tied as to looking at higher-level events," Mr. Naomi said.

Mr. Naomi said that the recommendations in the flood control engineering manual were "general guidance," and that conditions at a particular site could justify deviations.

He defended the walls, saying: "The flood walls have functioned over the years very successfully and without incident. The design works. It has worked in other locales. And will likely continue to be used as long as you do not subject it to pressures that it was not designed to handle."

The broken walls, which were long seen as a second choice to earthen levees, are testament to 40 years of fiscal and political compromises made by elected officials, from local levee boards to Congress and several presidential administrations, as they balanced costs and environmental concerns with the need to protect a city that lies largely below sea level and is still subsiding.

Ever since Hurricane Betsy flooded parts of New Orleans in 1965, the federal government has financed a hurricane defense system designed to guard against an equivalent storm.

But as the threat of a more intense hurricane became better understood in recent years, government financing for flood prevention in New Orleans did not keep pace with a growing alarm among many local residents, scientists and even the corps's own engineers.

Standing next to the shattered remains of one of the concrete walls last week, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a New Orleans councilwoman, said, "In my opinion, they were playing Russian roulette with people's lives."

"Do you realize that if those walls had held, we'd have just had a little cleaning job?" said Ms. Hedge-Morrell, whose district between downtown and the lakefront was covered with 10 feet of water from the breaks of flood walls. "We would not have this massive loss of life and destruction."

On Tuesday, streams of dump trucks hurriedly dumped loads of gravel into the breaches in New Orleans's flood defenses, in case Hurricane Rita shifts toward here later this week.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a surge from Lake Pontchartrain poured into the main parts of the city through breaks on the walls lining the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, which normally carry runoff pumped out of the city into the lake. A separate surge from the Gulf of Mexico overwhelmed the walls along the Industrial Canal, inundating the Lower Ninth Ward. Officials say that break may have been caused by a barge that broke loose from its moorings.

When the hurricane hit, the only earthen levees that failed in a way that produced substantial flooding were on the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a man-made ship canal east of the city. These levees, which were not as high as those on the river or Lake Pontchartrain, let in the floodwaters that ravaged eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

A surge from Lake Pontchartrain was the catastrophic situation that the corps had been guarding against since Hurricane Betsy 40 years ago. Initially, the corps wanted to build a giant barrier to keep water from the Gulf of Mexico from reaching Lake Pontchartrain and flooding the canals.

That project was delayed by lawsuits from environmental groups that contended the corps had failed to study ecological effects. By the late 1970's, the corps abandoned that approach and began raising levees along the lake and the Mississippi and adding flood walls on the canals.

In the mid-1990's, engineering professors at Louisiana State began publicizing computer models that showed how a Category 5 storm could kill tens of thousands of people and flood the French Quarter. Corps officials in Louisiana pushed local officials to help seek more money from Congress, both to finish existing upgrades and to start bolstering the city against bigger threats.

Joseph Suhayda, who was one of the Louisiana State professors, said corps officials privately urged him to "raise the consciousness" about the dire threats.

But upgrading the flood control system never became a major priority for corps officials in Washington, local and federal officials say.

Corps veterans said it was not surprising that federal engineers did not issue more vocal warnings.

"I don't think it was culturally in the system for the corps to say 'this is crazy,' " said William F. Marcuson III, the former director of the Waterways Experiment Station for the corps in Vicksburg, Miss., and president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

"The corps works for Congress," Mr. Marcuson said, "and when the boss says design for a Category 3 storm, culturally the corps is not going to go back and say this is wrong."

Investigations into how the walls failed are just now beginning. Col. Richard Wagenaar, commander of the corps district in New Orleans, said the soil behind the flood walls could have been weakened after they were topped by the storm surge, or the walls could have simply given way as the water - and the pressure - mounted against them.

Indeed, as several engineers said, while a dirt levee of similar height might eventually be topped as well, and possibly eroded, only the walls were vulnerable to a sudden collapse.

The determination of how the walls fell will bear on how officials decide to remake the flood control system.

Max Hearn, executive director of the Orleans Levee District, said that if the federal government was now ready to pay for Category 5 protection, it seemed unlikely that the flood wall system could be upgraded to that level.

But Mr. Hearn said the only answer might be the construction of flood gates designed to limit a hurricane surge in Lake Pontchartrain - the same idea that was considered and dropped in the 1970's.

Christopher Drew reported from New Orleans for this article and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.

    Design Flaws Seen in New Orleans Flood Walls, NYT, 21.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/21/national/nationalspecial/21walls.html

 

 

 

 

 

OPEC Offers Extra Oil Supplies

as Hurricane Fears Ease

 

September 20, 2005
The New York Times
By JAD MOUAWAD

 

VIENNA, Sept. 20 - Drawing on the last option available, OPEC formally agreed today to lift any restrictions on its oil sales for the next three months in a move aimed at reassuring edgy markets about the security of petroleum supplies even as a new hurricane threatened to cause more havoc in America's energy heartland.

But there were indications today that Hurricane Rita might miss the main oil production and refining areas along the coast of Texas, and crude oil prices fell.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest and most influential member, rallied the oil-producing group to support its strategy to sell as much oil as consumers asked for. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries pledged all its remaining extra capacity, or an additional two million barrels of oil a day amounting to 7 percent of the group's output, in a last-ditch attempt to bring prices down from their record highs.

Even so, because of shortages in refining capacity in the United States, Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, acknowledged there might be few takers but highlighted the decision's psychological impact.

"OPEC went out of its way and offered all the spare capacity that it has, recognizing that maybe there is no demand, but offering it so that consumers can feel comfortable that the supply is there," Mr. Naimi said.

He added, "If the people don't want the crude, it is better for it to stay underground."

The proposal, reached after two days of lengthy talks in the Austrian capital, was overshadowed by reports that a new hurricane was headed towards the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to further disrupt the United States' domestic output and refining operations.

News that a storm was making its way towards the gulf, where a third of domestic oil and gas supplies and nearly half the country's refining capacity is concentrated, pushed oil prices up 7 percent to more than $67 a barrel on Monday.

But today, crude oil for October delivery was trading down $2.19, or 3.3 percent, to $65.20 a barrel around noontime on the New York Mercantile Exchange. October gasoline futures were down 10.27 cents, or 5 percent, to $1.94 a gallon.

Traders bid down oil and gasoline prices in New York after the latest weather forecast indicated that Hurricane Rita may now be headed for the southern coast of Texas rather than the energy-intensive area just south and east of Houston.

The Gulf Coast has yet to recover from Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the energy hub three weeks ago and disrupted production. In addition, four refineries, amounting to 5 percent of domestic capacity, will be out of commission until November at the earliest after suffering from flooding caused by the storm.

OPEC's decision will remain in place until the group meets again in December in Kuwait. Mr. Naimi said the measure then could be extended.

"If the market needs additional crude, it's there and they're welcome to it," Mr. Naimi said. "We have said many times there is no shortage of crude."

Saudi Arabia has about 1.5 million barrels a day of extra capacity on call, and others OPEC producers, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria, have another 500,000 barrels a day. The group currently produces 28.3 million barrels a day, excluding Iraq, or about a third of world oil production.

Forecasters caution that it can be extremely difficult to predict the path of storms and hurricanes, especially over several days because they can lose or gain force and change direction because of a range of variables.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded Rita to a Category 1 hurricane this morning and reiterated its warnings for the Florida Keys and other parts of southern Florida.

On Monday afternoon, it appeared Rita could make landfall near Galveston, Tex., and Freeport near Houston by early Saturday morning. But forecasters readjusted the trajectory so that it now appears headed for Corpus Christi, a coastal town about 200 miles south of Houston.

Energy traders seem to have taken some solace in that shift, because the Houston area has a greater concentration of refineries, port facilities and petrochemical plants, said Marshall Steeves, an analyst at Refco Inc. in New York. But he added Corpus Christi was also home to many refiners that "are by and large along the coast."

"So it could be problematic regardless of where it strikes," he said.

Vikas Bajaj contributed reporting from New York for this article.

    OPEC Offers Extra Oil Supplies as Hurricane Fears Ease, NYT, 20.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/business/worldbusiness/20cnd-opec.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans jittery on Rita threat

 

Tue Sep 20, 2005 9:31 AM ET
Reuters
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Matt Daily

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans readied itself for a new evacuation on Tuesday amid fears that a new hurricane threatening to hit the Gulf of Mexico could wreak fresh havoc in the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Mayor Ray Nagin, whose ambitious plans to bring residents home had been questioned by U.S. President George W. Bush, urged anyone remaining in the city to leave ahead of Hurricane Rita, which he warned could swamp the levees that collapsed and flooded the city three weeks ago.

Bush, seeking to highlight progress after a much-criticized late start to the hurricane relief effort, planned to visit New Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans on Tuesday. He was to visit a recovering business in New Orleans.

Appearing on Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, Nagin defended his earlier timetable to bring the city back to life -- plans that federal officials had called unrealistic. That schedule is now suspended due to concern about Rita, which was upgraded from tropical storm status to a hurricane on Tuesday morning.

"I respect what the federal officials are doing down here, but they do not fully comprehend what it is like to lose your home, to lose everything and not know, be sitting out three weeks," Nagin said. "So I think it was important that people come back and at least take a look."

Eyeing the new storm, state officials said they were recommending a mandatory evacuation for New Orleans and two neighboring parishes by Tuesday afternoon or early Wednesday.

Rita was moving west from the Atlantic Ocean and expected to enter the warmer waters of the Gulf this week, where forecasters said it was expected to grow in strength.

"It's about to enter the Gulf," said Col. Jeff Smith, deputy director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, late on Monday in Baton Rouge.

"We're asking individuals to be proactive right now, to start calling and looking for places to go," said Smith.

Nagin said the city would make "more aggressive" plans for an evacuation than were in place ahead of Katrina, when thousands were left stranded without any way to leave the stricken city.

Current predictions point to a Texas landfall for Rita at week's end, but he said there was a chance it could hit New Orleans.

 

'PREPARE YOURSELF'

"I'm encouraging people to leave," Nagin said at a news conference on Monday, adding that anything over nine inches (23 cm) of rain and a three-foot (1-meter) storm surge could cause "significant" flooding.

"Prepare yourself to evacuate Wednesday or even earlier," he said. "This storm in my opinion ... is as dangerous as Katrina was."

Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29 with 140 mile-per-hour (224 kph) winds and a 30-foot (nine-metre) storm surge.

Although officials said they were lining up 200 buses for an evacuation, they conceded they do not know how many people have come back to New Orleans since the waters receded.

Most details of a new evacuation plan were still being worked out.

"Just tell people to run," Nagin said when asked what the city could do about the levees that have been only patched, not fully repaired, and are lower than they were before Katrina.

Nagin suspended all official plans for reentry into the city. He had been encouraging a gradual return.

Residents who have returned said they were reluctant to leave.

Tom Lewis, 58, a property owner in the historic French Quarter, said he was frustrated by the new orders.

"If I ran my business the way they run this city, I'd be bankrupt," he said.

His wife Annie, 47, said she refused to leave. "It'll take a gun to my head," she said.

But Wayne Williams, 43, whose house was destroyed, said he understood why the mayor changed his plans.

"We already had a scare, and it wasn't a scare," he said.

Nagin's change of heart came after a meeting with the head of the federal relief effort in New Orleans, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen. But he insisted the decision was his.

"There's only one mayor of New Orleans, and I'm it," he said.

Bush also had urged the mayor to proceed with caution, saying he should be "realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles" facing the city, most of which still lacks electricity, drinkable water and emergency services.

The Louisiana death toll rose to 736 as of Monday, bringing the total dead from Katrina to 973, including 218 in Mississippi and 19 combined in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in New Orleans and Ben Berkowitz in Baton Rouge)

    New Orleans jittery on Rita threat, R, 20.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-20T133134Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Bush:

Townsend to lead Katrina inquiry

 

Tue Sep 20, 2005 10:38 AM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has named his homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, to lead an internal inquiry into the much-criticized federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the White House said on Tuesday.

Townsend will look at "what went right, what went wrong and lessons learned from the federal response to Hurricane Katrina," said spokesman Trent Duffy, who spoke as Bush prepared to make his fifth trip to the disaster zone.

Bush has come under heavy fire for his handling of the hurricane and its aftermath. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on Monday said 41 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the ordeal, compared to 57 percent who disapproved.

A separate congressional inquiry will also investigate what went wrong with the federal response. But Bush so far has refused to back calls from Democrats for an independent commission to look at the disaster response.

A memo from White House chief of staff Andrew Card directed government departments and agencies to designate by Tuesday one senior official to be the coordinator to work with Townsend for their specific agency.

The memo directed agencies to give this effort "their full attention and highest priority," Duffy said.

The goal is to apply lessons learned to future emergencies.

"The president said he wanted to hold people accountable. This is one of the many ways in which he will do that," the spokesman said.

Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29 with 140 mile-per-hour (224 kph) winds and a 30-foot (nine-metre) storm surge. Levees in New Orleans collapsed, flooding the city and leaving thousands of people stranded without any way to leave.

The Louisiana death toll had risen to 736 as of Monday, bringing the total dead from Katrina to 973, including 218 in Mississippi and 19 combined in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

    Bush: Townsend to lead Katrina inquiry, R, 20.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-20T143748Z_01_SPI049472_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-BUSH-INQUIRY.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Suspends

Flow of People to New Orleans

 

September 20, 2005
The New York Times
By WILLIAM YARDLEY

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 19 - Under pressure from President Bush and with a new storm threatening the Gulf of Mexico, Mayor C. Ray Nagin suspended on Monday his controversial plan to allow people to return to this vulnerable city.

Instead Mr. Nagin called for a "mandatory" evacuation of many of the residents who have returned or never left.

"This is a different type of event," the mayor said of the storm, Rita. "Our levee systems are still in a very weak condition. Our pumping stations are not at full capacity, and any type of storm that heads this way and hits us will put the east bank of Orleans Parish in very significant harm's way. So I'm encouraging everyone to leave."

The mayor reversed himself hours after Mr. Bush had questioned whether it was safe for residents to return. The president reiterated warnings by Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, leader of the federal recovery effort, that the levee system was weakened, that the 911 emergency telephone system was not working, that the hospitals remained closed and that pollutants were in the air and water.

"Admiral Allen speaks for the administration," Mr. Bush said on Monday in Washington. "We have made our position loud and clear. The mayor needs to hear, and so do the people of New Orleans, our objective.

"Listen, I went there and stood in Jackson Square to say we want this city to re-emerge. As I said, I can't imagine America without a vibrant New Orleans. It's just a matter of timing, and there's issues to be dealt with.

"If it were to rain a lot, there is concern from the Army Corps of Engineers that the levees might break. And so therefore, we're cautious about encouraging people to return at this moment of history."

The dispute over access reflected three weeks of tension, despite public reconciliations, between federal and local authorities over the response to Hurricane Katrina, which struck on Aug. 29.

Mr. Nagin said the new storm and sewer problems, but not political problems, had prompted the change.

"I understand the federal government was a little, uh, excited about the plan," he said. "They didn't feel as though conditions were quite right. But my thought has always been that if we have this many resources in the city working cooperatively, then we could correct just about any situation that was out there."

Forecasters said the new storm, which passed through the Bahamas on Monday, was expected to strengthen into a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this week and potentially strike Texas, near the Louisiana border. The mayor asked people remaining in the city to leave or at least "be prepared" to evacuate as soon as Wednesday, depending on the storm track.

The terms of the evacuation were not fully clear. The mayor said the east bank of the city, which includes historic neighborhoods like the French Quarter, as well as those most devastated by flooding, was under the same mandatory evacuation he issued before Hurricane Katrina. But he said people in those areas would not yet be forced to leave.

Mr. Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, said buses would be in place to remove people who needed transportation. In a statement after the mayor's announcement, the city said it that it had requested 200 buses and that it already had 150. If the storm threatens the city, the plan calls for residents to start boarding the buses 48 hours before the projected landfall from the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center downtown and from Behman Stadium in the Algiers section.

The governor said more details of the plan would be available on Tuesday.

In Algiers, a section of the city across the Mississippi that did not flood, Mr. Nagin asked residents to "be prepared to evacuate as early as Wednesday." He made that call hours after the city had officially begun letting residents return to that area, the first major neighborhood, with 60,000 people before the storm, to reopen.

Word of another potential evacuation was met with some acceptance, some resistance and much frustration in Algiers. After a long drive home from Pensacola, Fla., Roy McGinnis parked his Dodge Caravan on Magellan Street, home at last.

"I can't take another evacuation," Mr. Magellan said. "I have my grandchildren with me. I have my whole family with me. The first storm to hit, we haven't gotten over that yet. We've been on the road. We can't get back on the road.

Others were less defiant. Diane Craik, a real estate broker who had stayed in San Diego during Hurricane Katrina, made a half joke about moving to California for good.

"If they say evacuate, we're going," Ms. Craik said. "It's crazy. This is just stuff. I wouldn't stay for stuff."

The death toll in Louisiana from Hurricane Katrina rose to 737 on Monday, from 646 on Sunday.

By Monday afternoon, a police officer on Interstate 10 turned away all residents going into the city because of the new storm threat. Just contractors and the news media entered, said the officer, Gus James.

Some low-lying areas close to Lake Pontchartain remain under water.

"Three inches will cause some flooding," Col. Terry J. Ebbert, homeland security director of the city, said about more rain.

"The real problem," he said, citing the weakened levees, "is storm surge."

The Army Corps of Engineers has warned for days that the repaired levee system around the city, most of which is below sea level, would not protect the area from another hurricane or even a heavy storm.

"Initially when the storm struck, we thought they might be in a little better condition," a spokesman for the corps, Eugene A. Pawlik, said. "We had not had the opportunity to go out and do a full inspection of the levees."

Now, Mr. Pawlik said, it is clear that the city "can't take much of a hit."

After inspections, the corps has found that many areas of levees that had been "overtopped" have become significantly lower than their designed heights. Some levee stretches, including those along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal, have been entirely eroded away, from original heights of 17 feet "to almost ground level," Mr. Pawlik said.

In the coming months, the corps plans to work through three phases. The first one to close the gaps in the levees, the second to rebuild the levees to their former height and the third to return the levees to their pre-storm structural strength.

The corps plans to have the third phase completed by next June, when the 2006 hurricane season begins. The repairs would restore the levees only to their strength before Hurricane Katrina.

The mayor, asked whether the city could allow residents to safely return at a point in the near future, knowing that hurricane seasons does not end until Nov. 30, said the city would resume its phased in re-entries in some form after the threat from the new storm had passed.

He emphasized that the program was not intended for everyone in a city with no open schools and no public transportation.

"I think we can, as long as those are mobile residents that come back and as long as we're not encouraging children to come back and elderly," Mr. Nagin said. "I think we can do it. We need a very flexible citizen that comes back. And I think our citizens are smart enough to understand the difference."

A spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparation, Mark Smith, said emergency personnel would also have to be evacuated if the new storm turned toward New Orleans. He said 16,000 National Guard and regular Army soldiers were in New Orleans, along with several thousand workers from contractors for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA employees and other relief workers would be affected.

Mayor Nagin has said the federal presence proves how safe the city is after widespread looting and violence in the first days after Hurricane Katrina. But he has also resisted federal intervention at times.

Noting that Admiral Allen had urged residents not to return, the mayor said: "The admiral's a good man. I respect him. But when he starts talking to the citizens of New Orleans, that's kind of out of his lane. There's only one mayor of New Orleans and I'm it."

Michael Brick contributed reporting from New Orleans for this article, John Schwartz from New York and Timothy Williams from Baton Rouge, La.

    Mayor Suspends Flow of People to New Orleans, NYT, 20.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/national/nationalspecial/20orleans.html

 

 

 

 

 

Cash Now, Questions Later

 

September 20, 2005
The New York Times

By GARY RIVLIN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 19 - In the period that some simply call "before," employees working at the Liberty Bank and Trust Company headquarters, a six-story glass box in eastern New Orleans, sat at brand-new workstations in a building they had occupied only this past spring.

Now, the head office for this $350 million bank is a cramped branch here, a homely brick building with a corner of its corrugated tin roof missing. Two bank employees, seated on beat-up borrowed chairs behind a pair of folding tables, serve as the loan department for the bank's 13 branches. The table beside them is the one-employee insurance department. Four tables pushed together in the room's middle accommodate a makeshift call center.

At least now Liberty has working phones. It was not until 10 days after the hurricane hit on Aug. 29 that BellSouth installed temporary phone lines so that customers, virtually all of them in desperate financial straits, could find out when the bank would lift the temporary $100-a-day limit on A.T.M. withdrawals that lasted through Sept. 8.

Liberty, one of the country's largest black-owned banks, has long been a gleaming New Orleans business success story, a homegrown institution in a predominantly African-American city. It has outposts here and in Jackson, Miss., but its branches are mainly concentrated in the northeastern quadrant of New Orleans, a vastly underserved part of the city, home to its black working and middle classes.

Liberty's presence, in other words, was greatest precisely in that part of New Orleans most devastated by the storm and the waters that roared through much of the city after the levees broke.

"Where you saw water up to the rooftops," said Alden J. McDonald Jr., the chief executive. He grabbed a New Orleans map and drew small circles to indicate each of his eight branches in the city. The majority were just south of Lake Pontchartrain, in the devastated eastern half of the city. "That's where my customer base lived. My employees lived out there."

He shook his head and gave a sharp, raspy laugh. "Hell, that's where I lived," said Mr. McDonald, who turned 62 last Friday and is also the chairman of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. McDonald has agreed to allow a reporter to chronicle his efforts over the coming months by following him and members of the Liberty Bank staff as they work to rebuild in New Orleans. At the moment, theirs is a tale of a bank that is somehow managing to offer a full complement of services, even if it sometimes seems everything has been jerry-built using chewing gum and baling wire, and some of the employees are still unaccounted for.

The hurricane delivered a shocking blow to virtually every business along the Gulf Coast, but few were more devastated than Liberty, the largest black-owned bank in New Orleans. Five of its eight branches in the city were badly damaged by water, Mr. McDonald said. At least five were hit by looters, including two that were not flooded.

Insurance will offset much of the cost of that physical destruction, just as it will cover most of the damage to the hotels, restaurants and music clubs so essential to the city's future.

The tourist trade, however, relies on visitors from around the globe - those financially untouched by the hurricane and its deadly aftermath. Liberty's future, in contrast, is inexorably entwined in the success of rebuilding New Orleans in areas far from the French Quarter, the Garden District and the central business area. Eighty percent of Liberty's business, Mr. McDonald said, had been based in New Orleans. Virtually all of his customers, he said, lived in neighborhoods that are still unreachable except by boat.

"All those people you're seeing relocated to Houston, Dallas, northern Louisiana, across the country - that's my customer base," said Mr. McDonald, a lifelong resident of New Orleans. A courtly man with wavy gray hair, gray mustache and a gravelly voice, he offered a brave half-smile. "The question is whether most of them will be coming back," he added.

Thirty-three years ago, when Liberty was founded, its entire operation fitted in a trailer parked in a corner lot on the east side of New Orleans. "At the time, there was no minority banking service in New Orleans," said Norman C. Francis, Liberty's board chairman and one of its founders. An integrated group of business leaders, Mr. Francis said, pooled $2 million to create the city's first minority-owned bank.

"Liberty was a new symbol of minorities controlling their own capital," said Mr. Francis, the president of Xavier University in New Orleans. "It was a new experience for our customers to see black tellers and black branch managers."

When the bank opened in 1972, its first president was Mr. McDonald, then 29 years old, a waiter's son who had worked his way up to vice president at a local bank. He was put in charge of a staff of six.

Liberty today is one of the five largest black-owned financial institutions in the country, offering an array of services from personal accounts, mortgages and small-business loans to credit cards and insurance. Last year, it ranked third on Black Enterprise magazine's list of top black-owned banks. Its most recent annual report showed that profits had grown by a robust 22 percent over the previous year, as an aggressive expansion strategy seemed to be paying off.

The bank was on pace to post another excellent year, Mr. McDonald said - until Aug. 29. Its customer list included American Express, Kellogg, Aetna and the Internal Revenue Service, but also the city of New Orleans and 35,000 retail customers.

Mr. McDonald prepared for Katrina, just as he had done for big storms in the past. He created four backup copies of the bank's computer records. He gave one each to two bank employees, and he shipped two others via Federal Express to the Pennsylvania company that is host to the bank's computer operations during emergencies.

The Federal Express packages did not make it through the storm because the carrier's service was disrupted for days. And then Mr. McDonald could not reach either of the employees carrying the other two backups. One ended up stuck in Slidell, La., which was ravaged by the storm.

"I still have no idea what happened to that other employee," Mr. McDonald said.

To ride out the storm, Mr. McDonald had his wife book a suite of rooms at the Hyatt in New Orleans. But on Sunday morning, he realized that leaving town was a much wiser option. They fled to Atlanta.

Three days passed before the records from his central operations were finally delivered to the backup site in Pennsylvania.

Yet Liberty still could not connect to the global automated teller system that would allow customers, wherever they happened to land, to have access to their accounts through non-Liberty cash machines. That was true of any bank whose central processing operation was in a location downed by the hurricane, Mr. McDonald said, including the much-larger Whitney National. Hibernia Bank, also based in New Orleans, was off the network for several days until the company could switch operations to its Houston center, said its chief executive. J. Herbert Boydstun.

Customers, however, were desperate for cash, so Mr. McDonald made a decision that was sure to please some customers - at least they could have access to a small portion of their money - and anger others. He instructed the system to allow any customer to withdraw $100 - but no more than $100 - a day. Even before the bank was finally hooked into the network, which happened on Sept. 8, 10 days after the hurricane hit, Mr. McDonald had increased that limit to $500. The need for people to have access to cash, he reasoned, was that great.

A banker, he said, recalling an oft-repeated joke, is "someone who gives you an umbrella when the sun is shining," he said, and then "takes it away when it starts to rain. We try not to be that kind of banker. We try to be the kind of banker that's there with you when you need us the most."

Mr. McDonald said he never worried about solvency because the bank had roughly $40 million in securities that he could convert to cash if necessary. Instead, he worried about finding homes for displaced employees and getting the bank's own small network of A.T.M.'s working. (As of Monday, he was still waiting for the local phone company in Pennsylvania to set up the lines that would let him plug his network into the backup site.)

His primary worry in the second week after the storm was the lack of a customer service center. People could not access their accounts via the Internet or the A.T.M. network, so many drove to Baton Rouge or Jackson, Miss., just to talk to someone face to face.

People came from as far away as Houston, Mr. McDonald said, though it is roughly a four-hour drive from there to Baton Rouge.

The phone company was able to install enough phone lines to allow Liberty to offer customer service on Sept. 7, nine days after the storm struck. Only about 20 of the company's 150 employees landed in Baton Rouge after the storm. There were not enough bank employees to provide essential functions, like home loans and bank compliance, and also answer phones, so Mr. McDonald hired around a dozen people, all of them relatives of bank employees, to run a makeshift call center, essentially deputizing them after a crash course in banking. The son of another employee, in his 20's and a computer whiz, is serving as one of two systems experts.

For days, the bank's improvised customer service system resembled a public television fund-raiser. A phone would ring as soon someone set it back on the cradle. Before the storm, the bank's customer service office was handling an average of 90,000 calls a month.

With the phones ringing incessantly, Mr. McDonald felt hopeful. The bank was once again connected to the larger A.T.M. system and even managed to issue nearly $3 million in loans in the second week after the storm. Mr. McDonald confidentially told longtime customers that if they needed help financing a house, the bank would provide 100 percent financing. If they needed a higher credit line, he would raise that as well.

Last Friday, though, Mr. McDonald was in a somber mood. Insurance was one worry. He had plenty of coverage but the policy was in his corporate headquarters, which was still under water. But the cheerlessness apparent in his face and voice related mainly to his own misfortune.

Only hours earlier, he had learned that it would probably be several months before he would get access to his home. "My house was completely under water," he said. "We've lost everything."

On Tuesday, his mood had brightened considerably. He had visited his wife in Atlanta that weekend. His daughter, 30, had just come for a visit. The only impediment now was the wait for a high-speed Internet line. "As soon as the telephone company can give us a line, we'll be fully functioning," he said.

"I have no doubt we'll make it. I'm running against time right now," he said, but added: "I think I have it licked."

    Cash Now, Questions Later, NYT, 20.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/business/20liberty.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans mayor orders evacuation,

no reopening

 

Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:51 PM ET
Reuters
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Andy Sullivan

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday suspended a plan to bring residents back to New Orleans and told all those now in the stricken city to leave because of fears a new storm headed into the Gulf of Mexico could swamp damaged levees and wreak new havoc.

Tropical Storm Rita was moving west from the Atlantic Ocean and expected to enter the Gulf this week, where forecasters said it could grow into a major hurricane.

Current predictions point to a Texas landfall for Rita at week's end, but Nagin said there was a chance it could hit a New Orleans, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina three weeks ago.

"We are suspending all re-entry into the city of New Orleans," Nagin said in a news conference.

"Our levee systems are still in a very weak condition, our pumping stations are still not at full capacity and any type of storm that heads this way and hits us will put the east bank of Orleans Parish in very significant harm's way, so I'm encouraging everyone to leave," Nagin said.

"If we have anything over nine inches of rain and a three-foot surge in any storm we will once again have significant flooding on the east bank," he said.

"Prepare yourself to evacuate Wednesday or even earlier."

Residents who have come back since Katrina hit sounded reluctant to leave again.

"We have plenty of supplies and have no plans to leave," said R.R. Lyon, a 49-year-old art gallery owner in the historic French Quarter. "I think being here and staying is going to be easier than getting back in."

But Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said people should take warnings seriously.

"Every citizen who is able needs to be making preparations," she said at a news conference in Baton Rouge. "We would like anybody below I-10 to think about getting yourself to a safer place."

Interstate 10 runs east-west across southern Louisiana, directly through the city of New Orleans.

Nagin's announcement were a sharp reversal of his earlier plan to "repopulate" New Orleans by allowing residents of areas less affected by Katrina to return to the city as of Monday.

 

NO POWER, CLEAN WATER, SERVICES

Thousands of people streamed back into the relatively untouched west bank neighborhood of Algiers, across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, despite protests from President George W. Bush and his New Orleans relief director, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, that it was too soon for their return.

They warned that returning now could be dangerous, due to a lack of electricity, drinkable water and emergency services in most of the city.

"The mayor is working hard. ... He's got this dream about having a city up and running, and we share that dream," Bush told reporters at the White House. "But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans."

The president has come under heavy criticism for a slow federal response to initial Katrina relief efforts.

Nagin's decision on Monday to get people out and not allow any more in came after a meeting with Allen.

"Our re-entry plan has gone very smoothly," Nagin said of Algiers.

But, he told reporters, "I am concerned about this hurricane getting in the Gulf. I am very concerned about us clearing out the east bank of New Orleans totally to deal with this next threat."

Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29 with 140 mile-per-hour winds (224 kph) and a 30-foot (nine meter) storm surge.

New Orleans collapsed into a chaos of death, violence and looting as Lake Pontchartrain swamped the city through breaks in the damaged levees that protect the low-lying city and rescue efforts floundered.

Floodwaters that once covered 80 percent of the city were receding quickly, but much of New Orleans remained a grim and grimy illustration of the damage from Katrina.

St. Bernard Parish remained off-limits, due in large part to oil spilled from a refinery that left layers of black goo several feet thick in some yards. Authorities say as many as three-quarters of its homes may need to be razed.

The Louisiana death toll rose to 736 as of Monday, bringing the total dead from Katrina to 973, including 218 in Mississippi and 19 combined in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

(Additional reporting by Matt Dailey in New Orleans and Ben Berkowitz and Kenneth Li in Baton Rouge)

    New Orleans mayor orders evacuation, no reopening, R, 19.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-20T005137Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Part of New Orleans reopened

 

Mon Sep 19, 2005 2:35 PM ET
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Andy Sullivan

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans residents who fled Hurricane Katrina streamed back into selected areas on Monday but plans to reopen others fell into doubt after President George W. Bush urged caution and a new storm threatened to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

The devastated city is vulnerable to renewed flooding from Tropical Storm Rita, which so far was heading west to the Florida Keys, Bush said. A Louisiana official said the levees in New Orleans would fail if smashed by a new storm surge.

The latest projections have Rita striking somewhere in the Houston area on Saturday, but various maps show this storm could hit southeastern Louisiana.

The chief of federal recovery efforts in New Orleans, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, already voiced concern that ambitious plans by Mayor Ray Nagin for residents to come home could be dangerous, due to a lack of electricity, drinkable water and emergency services in most of the city.

"The mayor is working hard. ... He's got this dream about having a city up and running, and we share that dream," Bush told reporters at the White House. "But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans."

The president had come under heavy criticism for a slow federal response to initial Katrina relief efforts.

 

KEY MONDAY MEETING

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said there is heightened concern among his colleagues about resettling the stricken city because of Rita.

"The levee structures, in particular the areas that are being reworked ... would not hold up well to any event, to any type of major tide event or major surge event," he said.

With roads already damaged across the New Orleans area as a result of Katrina, there would be few options to evacuate if Rita strikes, said officials with the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Allen and the mayor were scheduled to meet mid-afternoon to hash out their differences over the timetable for reopening the city to as many as 180,000 returning residents.

Appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," Allen said: "Without potable water and a 911 system, the public will not be protected and we would not recommend anyone go back."

The mayor, whose plans call for areas to reopen gradually over the next week, issued a statement to residents saying: "You are entering at your own risk."

Armed with his warning, people poured into Algiers, across the Mississippi River from the historic French Quarter. Whereas Algiers residents may return home for good, residents elsewhere can return only to salvage belongs. Others have stayed without official permission.

Roads into Algiers, where water and power are restored, were jammed and traffic came to a near standstill.

"We're secure, we have phones, we have pure water.... We have sewer, we have garbage pickup, we have more and more stores ready to come on line," Jackie Clarkson, a New Orleans City Council member, told reporters in Algiers.

"Most importantly, we have a bunch of eager citizens that are ready to rebuild New Orleans," she said.

Algiers was hit by Katrina's fury but was not inundated by floodwaters.

 

CAUSEWAY REOPENED

Fay Faron, who came to Algiers to inspect her 92-year-old mother's house, found one wall torn off and the inside of the house exposed.

"It's like a dollhouse," she said. "You can just look in the side."

The house also had been robbed, she said, although it was such a mess "it would be impossible at this point to say what's gone and what isn't." Authorities also reopened the Pontchartrain Causeway, the 24-mile (39-km) span stretching across the lake of the same name, which burst its levees three weeks ago and flooded the low-lying city.

Much of the city remained a grim and grimy illustration the damage from Katrina, which slammed into Louisiana and neighboring states on August 29 with 140 mile-per-hour (224 kph) winds and a 30-foot (nine-metre) storm surge.

St. Bernard Parish remained off-limits, due in large part to oil spilled from a refinery that left layers of black goo several feet thick in some yards. Authorities say as many as three-quarters of its homes may need to be razed.

The Louisiana death toll rose to 646 as of Sunday, bringing the total dead from Katrina to 883, including 218 in Mississippi and 19 combined in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

    Part of New Orleans reopened, R, 19.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-19T183145Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Cites Concern

as Residents Trickle Into New Orleans

 

September 19, 2005
The New York Times
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
and CHRISTINE HAUSER

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 19 - As a trickle of residents returned to a New Orleans neighborhood today under a plan by the mayor to reopen some areas, President Bush said federal authorities agreed with the goal of repopulating the city but said there were still concerns about the timetable.

The top official in charge of the federal response to the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, has urged a delay to the plan put in motion by Mayor C. Ray Nagin that is bringing people today back to a city largely without power, clean drinking water or a working 911 system. But Admiral Allen has stopped short of saying that the federal government would try to halt it.

Today, Mr. Bush said in Washington after meeting Homeland Security Department officials that Admiral Allen had reflected the concerns of the administration, which wants to work with the mayor.

"The mayor has got this dream about having a city up and running," Mr. Bush said. "And we share that dream. But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans."

Mr. Bush said there were environmental concerns as well as worries that any future rainfall could cause the levees to break.

"And so, therefore, we're cautious about encouraging people to return at this moment of history," he said.

Admiral Allen, who is meeting with Mayor Nagin today to discuss the plan, has said in televised interviews in the past several days that the city was moving too fast and sketched a set of rudimentary needs, like a 911 system and potable water, that he said had not been met.

Under Mayor Nagin's plan, residents were officially allowed today to go back to Algiers, a neighborhood across the Mississippi river that had storm damage but did not flood. With power mostly restored several days ago, many people had already returned.

Algiers has a population of about 60,000, a mix of working-class, the poor and young professionals who migrated into the area looking for inexpensive houses in historic Algiers Point.

Michael Briscoe, 42, who worked at the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center until the storm, said anyone moving from across the river would have to adjust.

"It's a faster life over there," he said, standing up the road from his house on Vallette Street. "This is more like country living."

A New Orleans City Council member, Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, whose district includes Algiers but also neighborhoods across the river, was setting up a temporary office today at the old Algiers Courthouse.

The owner of a café on Verret Street, across from a park where magnolias and crepe myrtles still stood, gave away coffee to the few people who stopped by. The owner, Jill Marshall, 50, even had wireless Internet access to offer. "It's very much like a soldier who goes off to war and they make it back and their buddy didn't," she said of the area's empathy for its neighbors across the river. "There's a lot of that going on."

The mayor's plan to reopen parts of New Orleans could bring back as many as 180,000 residents, about a third of the population.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Nagin, Sally Forman, said Sunday that the plan was considered fluid from the start and that the mayor intended to reassess after residents began returning to the neighborhood. Ms. Forman said the city would review traffic counts at checkpoints, the number of emergencies reported, sanitation problems and storm damage to homes and see how well it could provide services.

"There will be a complete reassessment - what worked, what didn't - because we will have moved an entire population back in," Ms. Forman said.

The official death toll from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana climbed to 646 on Sunday.

President Bush also expressed concern today about the path of Tropical Storm Rita, which formed near Puerto Rico on Sunday.

An early projection by the National Hurricane Center showed the storm moving into the Gulf of Mexico as a powerful hurricane later this week, most likely striking Mexico or Texas but possibly turning toward the southwest coast of Louisiana.

Today, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents from the lower Florida Keys, The Associated Press reported.

"There is deep concern about this storm causing more flooding in New Orleans," Mr. Bush said.

In New Orleans this weekend, business owners were allowed to return to the French Quarter, the Central Business District, the Uptown neighborhood and Algiers.

After residents return to Algiers, they can return to parts of Uptown. The French Quarter would open to residents by the next Monday, according to the mayor's plan.

Power is scheduled to return to the French Quarter by Friday and to Uptown by next Monday, a spokesman for Entergy New Orleans said.

The city has set a curfew of 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Many business owners who have come back say they only want to assess damage, clean up and begin repairs.

The plan to repopulate the city has also drawn skepticism from medical officials. New Orleans has more than a dozen hospitals, but none have resumed normal operations. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that officials at Children's Hospital, which Mayor Nagin had hoped would be ready when residents are allowed to return to the Uptown neighborhood this week, said they might need 10 more days to prepare.

William Yardley reported from New Orleans for this article and Christine Hauser from New York.

    Bush Cites Concern as Residents Trickle Into New Orleans, NYT, 19.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/19/national/nationalspecial/19cnd-storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

WHouse:

Katrina to impact deficit in short term

 

Mon Sep 19, 2005 2:12 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Costs related to Hurricane Katrina will have a short-term impact on the U.S. budget deficit, the White House said on Monday, adding that it still believed the deficit would be halved by 2009.

"The costs we're talking about related to Katrina are going to have a short-term impact on the deficit. They're one-time costs. But we believe we can continue to meet the president's commitment to halve the deficit by 2009," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The White House and Congress are wrestling with how to pay for the cost of rebuilding and relief efforts in the aftermath of the hurricane that some see as topping $200 billion.

"We're going to be working with Congress to identify additional unnecessary spending that can be cut as well," McClellan said.

In July, the White House cut its forecast of the fiscal 2005 budget deficit to $333 billion, down nearly $100 billion from its February projection.

    WHouse: Katrina to impact deficit in short term, R, 19.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-19T181111Z_01_EIC962737_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-BUSH-BUDGET.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Part of New Orleans reopened

 

Mon Sep 19, 2005 2:35 PM ET
Reuters
By Ellen Wulfhorst and Andy Sullivan

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans residents who fled Hurricane Katrina streamed back into selected areas on Monday but plans to reopen others fell into doubt after President George W. Bush urged caution and a new storm threatened to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

The devastated city is vulnerable to renewed flooding from Tropical Storm Rita, which so far was heading west to the Florida Keys, Bush said. A Louisiana official said the levees in New Orleans would fail if smashed by a new storm surge.

The latest projections have Rita striking somewhere in the Houston area on Saturday, but various maps show this storm could hit southeastern Louisiana.

The chief of federal recovery efforts in New Orleans, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, already voiced concern that ambitious plans by Mayor Ray Nagin for residents to come home could be dangerous, due to a lack of electricity, drinkable water and emergency services in most of the city.

"The mayor is working hard. ... He's got this dream about having a city up and running, and we share that dream," Bush told reporters at the White House. "But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans."

The president had come under heavy criticism for a slow federal response to initial Katrina relief efforts.

 

KEY MONDAY MEETING

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said there is heightened concern among his colleagues about resettling the stricken city because of Rita.

"The levee structures, in particular the areas that are being reworked ... would not hold up well to any event, to any type of major tide event or major surge event," he said.

With roads already damaged across the New Orleans area as a result of Katrina, there would be few options to evacuate if Rita strikes, said officials with the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Allen and the mayor were scheduled to meet mid-afternoon to hash out their differences over the timetable for reopening the city to as many as 180,000 returning residents.

Appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," Allen said: "Without potable water and a 911 system, the public will not be protected and we would not recommend anyone go back."

The mayor, whose plans call for areas to reopen gradually over the next week, issued a statement to residents saying: "You are entering at your own risk."

Armed with his warning, people poured into Algiers, across the Mississippi River from the historic French Quarter. Whereas Algiers residents may return home for good, residents elsewhere can return only to salvage belongs. Others have stayed without official permission.

Roads into Algiers, where water and power are restored, were jammed and traffic came to a near standstill.

"We're secure, we have phones, we have pure water.... We have sewer, we have garbage pickup, we have more and more stores ready to come on line," Jackie Clarkson, a New Orleans City Council member, told reporters in Algiers.

"Most importantly, we have a bunch of eager citizens that are ready to rebuild New Orleans," she said.

Algiers was hit by Katrina's fury but was not inundated by floodwaters.

 

CAUSEWAY REOPENED

Fay Faron, who came to Algiers to inspect her 92-year-old mother's house, found one wall torn off and the inside of the house exposed.

"It's like a dollhouse," she said. "You can just look in the side."

The house also had been robbed, she said, although it was such a mess "it would be impossible at this point to say what's gone and what isn't." Authorities also reopened the Pontchartrain Causeway, the 24-mile (39-km) span stretching across the lake of the same name, which burst its levees three weeks ago and flooded the low-lying city.

Much of the city remained a grim and grimy illustration the damage from Katrina, which slammed into Louisiana and neighboring states on August 29 with 140 mile-per-hour (224 kph) winds and a 30-foot (nine-metre) storm surge.

St. Bernard Parish remained off-limits, due in large part to oil spilled from a refinery that left layers of black goo several feet thick in some yards. Authorities say as many as three-quarters of its homes may need to be razed.

The Louisiana death toll rose to 646 as of Sunday, bringing the total dead from Katrina to 883, including 218 in Mississippi and 19 combined in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

(Additional reporting by Matt Dailey in New Orleans and Ben Berkowitz and Kenneth Li in Baton Rouge)

    Part of New Orleans reopened, R, 19.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-19T183145Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Bush urges Nagin

to be cautious on New Orleans

 

Mon Sep 19, 2005 1:04 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush urged New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday not to let people return to New Orleans yet because of fears there could be flooding from a new storm.

"The mayor is working hard. ... He's got this dream about having a city up and running, and we share that dream. But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans," Bush told reporters.

Nagin has been encouraging many people to return to New Orleans this week. But the chief of federal recovery efforts there, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, has been more cautious, saying the lack of electricity, drinkable water and sewage treatment facilities posed health problems.

Bush, heavily criticized for a slow federal response to Katrina relief efforts, said there is concern that Tropical Storm Rita could follow Katrina's track and cause more flooding in New Orleans.

"If it were to rain a lot, there is concern from the Army Corps of Engineers that the levees might break. And so, therefore, we're cautious about encouraging people to return at this moment of history, you know," he said.

Bush said Nagin should listen to Allen's concerns.

"The mayor needs to hear him. So do the people of New Orleans," Bush said.

Bush said it was a "matter of timing" as to when people should return. He also said there were some environmental concerns about people returning to New Orleans so soon after floodwaters in sections of the city have been pumped out.

    Bush urges Nagin to be cautious on New Orleans, NYT, 19.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-19T165629Z_01_SPI955971_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-BUSH.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Counting a City's Death Toll

in Orange Paint

 

September 19, 2005
The New York Times
By MICHAEL LUO

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 18 - The orange paint next to the front door told what happened inside the little white house on Mendez Street after the floodwaters came. Along with the date, 9-17, there was this: "2-D," for two dead.

A few submerged blocks away, a more explicit notation - "1 DB in back" - marked a small red-brick church, Iglesia Bautista Getsemani, where the desiccated remnants of an elderly woman, in a brassiere, underwear and socks, spread-eagled across the top of a set of outdoor steps, were discovered.

But searchers affixed a different inscription on Gerald J. Martin's home on nearby Painters Street. Mr. Martin, 76, was pulled out of his wrecked home on Friday by rescuers in a boat who heard him cry out to them. He had been there 18 days, surviving on a single plastic container of water. Now, his front entrance, still surrounded by water, is decorated with a Day-Glo insignia: "1-L."

Only now are searchers beginning to force their way into homes in this neighborhood, just south of Lake Pontchartrain and part of the Gentilly section of New Orleans, to unlock its watery secrets.

While much of the city is drying out and making halting steps toward recovery, this mostly middle-class neighborhood's topography and proximity to a breach in the London Avenue Canal has given it the distinction of being the largest remaining swath of the city still under water. Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck, this area remains a waterworld, a wilderness of downed power lines, submerged cars, stinking water and death.

Gentilly, in better days, was a quiet, predominantly African-American community. Much of it is several feet below sea level.

On Aug. 29, when Hurricane Katrina struck, the levee broke in two spots on the London Avenue Canal. The breach that occurred just north of Mirabeau Avenue was the neighborhood's undoing. Water poured into it from the west, quickly flooding the houses to their roofs.

"You can tell in this area, the water came in really quick," said J. D. Madden, 29, a Santa Clara, Calif., firefighter who helped rescue Mr. Martin from his home.

On Friday, Mr. Madden and his partner, Eric Mijangos, both members of a Federal Emergency Management Agency urban search-and-rescue team from California, were floating down the street in front of Mr. Martin's home. They had just worked their way down a line of homes across the street when they thought they heard someone yelling.

Shocked, they shut the boat's motor off and yelled back, peering through the branches of a toppled tree that partly obscured the entrance to Mr. Martin's home. They were equally startled to get a response.

"I asked him where he was," Mr. Madden said. "He had the window open. He was in the kitchen area."

By now, the water that had once been up to the ceiling in the home had receded to about three feet, barely up to the front stoop of Mr. Martin's home.

Mr. Mijangos used a sledgehammer to break down the door. They found Mr. Martin inside, naked, hungry and thirsty.

He told them that he had been living in his attic until two days before and that they were the first boat he had heard, even though searchers had regularly been making their way past his home for a week.

Mr. Martin's home had never been searched, because the water level and the downed tree in front had made entrance to it impossible, Mr. Madden said. But with the water receding rapidly over the last week, searchers could finally get up to his front door.

At this point, said Dana L. Finney, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers, just 20 percent of the city remains underwater. And search-and-rescue units have halted boat operations in all but a few areas, said John Huff, who leads the 600 or so FEMA search personnel in the region.

"We're pretty much beginning to do what we can by foot," he said.

Gentilly, however, remains mostly submerged.

Floating through on a boat, the neighborhood is quiet except for the distant whup-whup of helicopters and the hissing and gurgling of broken gas lines underwater. A few residents have tried to come back in to check on their homes, only to have to be rescued when they found the waters impossible to navigate on their own.

"It's not very easy to walk out of here," said Randy Shurson, who heads the California search-and-rescue team working the area. "I got six feet of water in places out here."

As searchers begin to force their way into more homes in the area, making room-to-room sweeps, they hope to find more survivors like Mr. Martin.

"I really believe there's more people like him," Mr. Madden said.

But, clearly, there are not many. A glimpse inside Mr. Martin's home on Saturday revealed sodden furniture tossed every which way by the swirling waters. In the kitchen, a refrigerator had toppled over; a microwave lay on its side. Puddles of sludgy water were everywhere. Near the entrance, a decoration on a table said "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled."

Mr. Martin had been staying in his attic. A blue sheet on which he slept was still spread out there. His only fresh air came from a small hole where a ventilation pipe had been. The heat was oppressive.

What searchers are mostly finding in this neighborhood are the dead, although not nearly in the numbers city officials had initially predicted. Members of the California search-and-rescue team said they had been coming across a few bodies every day.

At Iglesia Bautista Getsemani, a few blocks north, a dead snake lay next to the dead woman at the top of the church's back steps on Friday. An orange arrow on a nearby fallen tree pointed up to where she lay. By Sunday, her body was gone.

On Mendez Street, the two bodies searchers discovered on Saturday morning were gone by late that afternoon. Inside, a dresser partly blocked the door and mold covered the ceiling. Beds lay askew, against a wall in one room and on top of a dresser in another. A picture frame that still hung on one wall featured four Polaroid photographs of a woman and a dog. Another framed photo showed the smiling visage of an infant.

On Sunday afternoon, members of a search team from Texas gathered at a small brick home on the northern edge of the flooded region, at the intersection of New York and St. Roch Streets, to pick up yet another corpse. The house had been marked on Sept. 12 as having human remains.

After police officers from Illinois set up a perimeter, workers from Kenyon International, the private company that has been hired by the state to gather the dead, eased the body out on a stretcher.

Searchers are now forcing their way into any home in which the waterline exceeded five and a half feet to look for signs of life, or of death.

"It's very slow going," said Mason Weirshauser, a member of the California team. "You nose the boats into the house, step off the boat, find a way to force open the door. Force the door. Furniture's floating. You've got to do a very detailed search."

Searchers also have to navigate the hazardous rivers of brown and black that have become the main thoroughfares in this neighborhood, maneuvering around submerged cars, fallen trees and dangling power lines.

With the water receding, searchers hope to pick up the pace of their sweeps. The water is now only up to the knees of the Mary statue in front of one home in the neighborhood. The flecks of mud on her face make it look as if she is weeping.

    Counting a City's Death Toll in Orange Paint, NYT, 19.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/19/national/nationalspecial/19neighborhood.html

 

 

 

 

 

Caution Urged for Reopening of New Orleans

 

September 19, 2005
The New York Times
By WILLIAM YARDLEY

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 18 - Sharpening his earlier warnings, the top official in charge of the federal response to the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts again urged a delay on Sunday to a plan that is bringing people back to a city largely without power, drinking water or a working 911 system.

The official, Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, stopped short of saying that the government would try to halt the plan, which has been put in motion by Mayor C. Ray Nagin. But in several televised interviews on Sunday, Admiral Allen, who is scheduled to meet Mayor Nagin to discuss the plan on Monday, said the city was moving too fast and sketched a set of rudimentary needs he said had not been met.

"I wouldn't want to attach a time limit to it, but it includes things like making sure there's potable water, making sure there's a 911 system in place, telephone, a means to notify people there is an approaching storm so you can evacuate it with the weakened levee situation," he told Tim Russert on the NBC News program "Meet the Press." "We can do that, and we can do that fairly soon, but it's very, very soon to try and do that this week."

Away from New Orleans, differences of another sort over the storm arose Sunday. In an appearance on the ABC News program "This Week," former President Bill Clinton criticized the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, saying, "You can't have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle-class people up." Mr. Clinton also said that poverty had increased under Mr. Bush's policies and that the storm highlighted class divisions. [Page A17.]

The mayor's plan to reopen parts of New Orleans could bring back as many as 180,000 residents, about a third of the population.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Nagin, Sally Forman, said the plan was considered fluid from the start, and the mayor intends to reassess after residents begin to return Monday to Algiers, a neighborhood across the Mississippi River from downtown where about 57,000 people lived before the storm. Power has largely been restored to the area, which suffered far less damage than other parts of the city.

Ms. Forman said that as the day goes on, the city will review traffic counts at checkpoints, the number of emergencies reported, sanitation problems and storm damage to homes, and see how well the city can provide services.

"There will be a complete reassessment - what worked, what didn't - because we will have moved an entire population back in," Ms. Forman said. "If it all looks good, we'll probably continue as planned, but we just don't know what these reports will show."

The official death toll from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana climbed to 646 on Sunday.

The differences between Mayor Nagin and Admiral Allen came as Tropical Storm Rita formed near Puerto Rico on Sunday. An early projection by the National Hurricane Center showed the storm moving into the Gulf of Mexico as a powerful hurricane later this week, most likely striking Mexico or Texas but possibly turning toward the southwest coast of Louisiana.

Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers have said that repairs to levees breached during Hurricane Katrina are not yet strong enough to prevent flooding in a moderate storm, much less another hurricane.

This weekend, business owners were allowed to return to four areas, the French Quarter, the central business district, the Uptown neighborhood and Algiers.

After residents return to Algiers, beginning Wednesday they can return to parts of Uptown. The French Quarter would open to residents by the next Monday, according to the mayor's plan.

Admiral Allen said Sunday on Fox News that the decision rested with the mayor, though he was capable of giving the mayor some "very good counsel."

"I have spoke in the last 24 hours with the head of the E.P.A. and the director for the Center for Disease Control," he said. "And our collective counsel is for him to slow down and take this at a more moderate pace."

Power is scheduled to return to the French Quarter by Friday and to Uptown by the next Monday, a spokesman for Entergy New Orleans said.

The city has set a curfew of 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Many business owners who have come back say they only want to assess damage, clean up and begin repairs. Many say they will not stay, in part because of the curfew, but also because they lack power and, just as important, customers.

Harald T. Werner Jr., who is president of the Clovelly Oil Company, an independent exploration company with headquarters on Poydras Street, the city's corporate corridor, said he came back on Sunday only to pick up some legal records.

Until power and other services are restored, Mr. Werner said the re-entry plan would have little effect on larger businesses, many of which have set up temporary offices outside the city.

"It's not going to work," he said. "There's no support."

Some residents have already returned, often saying they met little resistance at checkpoints.

The plan to repopulate the city has drawn skepticism from medical officials. New Orleans has more than a dozen hospitals, but none have resumed normal operations. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that officials at Children's Hospital, which Mayor Nagin had hoped would be ready when residents are allowed to return to the Uptown neighborhood this week, said they might need 10 more days to prepare.

But some New Orleans residents are eager to return. On St. Charles Avenue, VooDoo BBQ planned to open its bar Sunday night, even though its restaurant next door suffered extensive storm damage to the roof. Roxanne DeLaune, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Scooter, said the couple's other restaurant, in the French Quarter, also was damaged, but by the police and military personnel who commandeered it after the storm.

    Caution Urged for Reopening of New Orleans, NYT, 19.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/19/national/nationalspecial/19katrina.html?hp&ex=1127102400&en=f9ac710a84c07f8d&ei=5094&partner=homepage

 

 

 

 

 

Vulnerable, and Doomed in the Storm

 

September 19, 2005
The New York Times
By DAVID ROHDE,
DONALD G. MCNEIL JR.,
REED ABELSON and SHAILA DEWAN

This article is by David Rohde,
Donald G. McNeil Jr., Reed Abelson and Shaila Dewan.

 

If some of those who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have been described as stubborn holdouts who ignored an order to evacuate, then these citizens of New Orleans defy that portrait: The 16 whose bodies were wrapped in white sheets in the chapel of Memorial Medical Center. The 34 whose corpses were abandoned and floating in St. Rita's Nursing Home. The 15 whose bodies were stored in an operating room turned makeshift morgue at Methodist Hospital.

The count does not stop there. Of the dead collected so far in the New Orleans area, more than a quarter of them, or at least 154, were patients, mostly elderly, who died in hospitals or nursing homes, according to interviews with officials from 8 area hospitals and 26 nursing homes. By the scores, people without choice of whether to leave or stay perished in New Orleans, trapped in health care facilities and in many cases abandoned by their would-be government rescuers.

Heroic efforts by doctors and nurses across the city prevented the toll from being vastly higher. Yet the breadth of the collapse of one of society's most basic covenants - to care for the helpless - suggests that the elderly and critically ill plummeted to the bottom of priority lists as calamity engulfed New Orleans.

At least 91 patients died in hospitals and 63 in nursing homes not fully evacuated until five days after the storm, according to the interviews, although those numbers are believed to be incomplete. In the end, withering heat, not floodwaters, proved the deadliest killer, with temperatures soaring to 110 degrees in stifling buildings without enough generator power for air-conditioning.

"The statement that you can judge a society by the way it treats elders and the vulnerable is a good way to look at our society," said Alice Hedt, executive director of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. "I hope this is going to be a wake-up call."

Somehow, no one ever imagined that flooding might force the evacuation of all health care facilities in a city that sits below sea level and is virtually surrounded by water.

There were piecemeal plans. Hospitals were required to have enough emergency provisions to operate for two to three days during a disaster. State officials said it was their responsibility to evacuate patients if necessary. Nursing homes were required to have their own evacuation plans, complete with contracts with transportation companies.

But once the city filled with water, and the plans by hospitals and nursing homes became quickly overmatched, neither state nor federal agencies came to the rescue, and in some cases appear to have thwarted efforts to evacuate patients.

Nearly all communication systems collapsed, leaving hospital administrators to guess if help was on the way. One administrator said overwhelmed state officials waited nearly a day before getting word to him that his hospital was essentially on its own. In the end, public hospitals turned to a wealthy, for-profit hospital chain for help.

Yet when private companies dispatched helicopters, trucks and buses to evacuate hospitals and nursing homes, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency commandeered some of them for other uses, hospital and nursing home officials said. The rescue of those who had remained in their homes, or were sheltered in an increasingly chaotic Superdome, became the priority.

Natalie Rule, a spokeswoman for FEMA, denied that the agency confiscated any equipment.

Deep water, power failures and looting forced the evacuation of at least 12 hospitals, 2,200 patients, and more than 11,000 staff members and city residents. In all, more than 3,800 residents would be evacuated from 53 nursing homes. In two public hospitals that primarily treat the poor, emergency generators and wiring were located on the ground floor, vulnerable to flooding, because state legislators had repeatedly refused to pay for upgrades. Both washed out in the storm.

For days, individual evacuations by boat and helicopter dragged on, with patients spending up to 12 hours waiting in crowded stairwells and rooftops before being told they would have to wait another day. As military helicopters equipped with seats, not stretchers, ferried healthy adults to safety, patients awaiting evacuation died, hospital staff members said.

State officials acknowledged that hospitals were correct in assuming rescuers would come to their aid.

"You have to have enough supplies so that once the storm passes, you can last until we can get to you," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana's state health officer. But he added that officials never anticipated the magnitude of the storm and were overwhelmed rescuing people in the floodwaters.

"We were competing for resources," he said, stressing that the state did the best it could under the circumstances.

Communication between state officials was so confused that it remains unclear whether the area's nursing homes were even required to follow Mayor C. Ray Nagin's mandatory evacuation order, issued a day before the hurricane struck.

Dr. Guidry said it was up to each nursing home to decide what was best for its residents. Even so, the Louisiana attorney general, Charles C. Foti Jr., cited the order in charging the owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home with criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of their residents.

Whatever the requirements, problems immediately arose. Because too many nursing homes had contracted with the same bus companies, or waited too long to leave, there were not enough vehicles. Two homes that were able to get buses fled to a school that ended up being in the storm's path. After the school's power was knocked out, two patients died.

There are clear signs that earlier, better-organized evacuations helped save hundreds of people.

Ten for-profit nursing homes evacuated early, hiring buses, ambulances and in one case a helicopter to safely move more than 1,000 patients. One private, for-profit hospital leased planes to safely evacuate all 200 of its patients.

The state pulled off some evacuations successfully as well. A state mental hospital was emptied before the storm. After the hurricane passed, a fleet of buses and hundreds of heavily armed guards safely evacuated New Orleans's prisons and jails. All of the city's 7,600 prisoners made it out safely.

 

Weathering Previous Storms

Most of the city's hospitals decided to take a calculated gamble.

They had sturdy walls and backup generators. They had weathered storms before, notably Hurricane Betsy in 1965, when winds of 125 miles per hour killed at least 75 people. New Orleans often flooded, but pumps always took the water out.

The hospitals had plans: They assumed that they could hold out for two or three days, that they had backup electricity, that help would arrive.

They did not assume that they would be marooned in a vast lagoon of water so deep that alligators could cross intersections but military trucks could not, that telephones would break down completely, that state and federal officials would dither days away bickering over legalities, that there would be a chaotic competition for helicopters, that the city would get so dangerous that looters would paddle up to a hospital's doors in a hot tub.

By Monday, Aug. 29, most hospital officials were relieved: the storm had passed, and except for some broken windows they were largely intact.

By Tuesday, Aug. 30, with the levees broken and the city underwater, 13 hospitals were facing a daunting task of evacuating patients, staff, family members and people who had taken shelter inside.

As far as can be determined now, more than 90 patients died in hospitals: at least 35 found dead from the storm in Memorial Medical Center, 16 in Methodist Hospital, about 19 in Lindy Boggs Medical Center, 13 in Touro Infirmary, 8 in the related Charity and University Hospitals. An unknown number died in transit or at triage centers like those at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport or the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

There is no suggestion that any patients drowned or were abandoned in their beds.

Bodies were found in odd places, but most were shrouded somehow, and lined up carefully in impromptu morgues by the living before they escaped.

Tony Carnes, a journalist with Christianity Today, was with a flotilla of rescue boats on Sept. 5 when they pulled up to regroup on a Memorial hospital ramp.

The hospital's doors were wide open, he said in a telephone interview, and, curious, he went in. There were no signs of looting, but in the second-floor chapel, guarded by only a handwritten "Keep Out" sign, he found 16 bodies. They lay on gurneys, covered, but with hands and legs and the crowns of heads poking out.

On higher floors, he found several more. "One was draped over a chair like a coat," he said. "They were all wrapped in blankets, or sheets, or that exam table paper."

Autopsies have not been conducted, but many hospitals said patients were elderly, in organ failure or had just had serious surgery. When the power went down, they had to endure days of 110-degree temperatures with high humidity, and the most desperate had to be manually ventilated - air squeezed into their lungs by hand for hours at a time. Some were on heart pumps running on batteries.

The hospitals were not required to follow the evacuation order issued by Mayor Nagin on Sunday, Aug. 28. "Hospitals don't evacuate," said John A. Matessino, president of the Louisiana Hospital Association, a trade association. "Hospitals stay in place."

In each case, administrators took their best guess as to whether it would be safer to keep patients in a strong building, or to risk their dying in a helicopter or in an ambulance caught in a traffic jam.

Making that calculation harder, the weather reports kept shifting.

"How many times have we heard that storms are going to hit New Orleans, but they veered to the east?" asked Virginia McCall, director of the intensive-care unit at Methodist Hospital. "We got lackadaisical."

Her hospital, she said, would definitely have evacuated in the face of a Category 5 hurricane. But it was reported to be dropping from a Category 5 to a Category 4 as it neared land. Some predictions said it would miss the city and blow into Mississippi.

After discharging as many patients as possible, the largest hospitals decided that letting their sickest patients stay was safer.

At the Ochsner Clinic, a private hospital housing about 400 patients before the storm, that gamble worked. Built near the edge of a levee in Jefferson Parish, it perches "on the lip of the bowl of New Orleans," said Warner Thomas, president of the foundation that runs it. When the levees broke, water came up to its front steps, but no farther.

The generators, behind high retaining walls, kept running. Winds knocked out a cooling tower, so the air-conditioning was weak, but not off. City water stopped, but Ochsner has its own well.

Incoming calls stopped, but a direct circuit to a sister hospital in Baton Rouge allowed outgoing calls and e-mail.

The Jefferson Parish emergency center sent over National Guard troops when some of the people streaming past the hospital tried to break in, Mr. Thomas said.

Eventually, it decided to remove about 25 patients, including babies in incubators and adults on ventilators. Although ambulances could have driven up, Mr. Thomas said he was doubtful about the roads, so he called in private helicopters, which took patients to Houston and Birmingham, Ala.

"We did not lose one patient," he said.

Other hospitals were not as lucky. Methodist was on the low-lying east side, and smaller hospitals in the area brought their patients there before the storm because it was taller.

Ms. McCall, in an interview from her sister's home in Wichita, Kan., said Methodist tried to evacuate 20 critically ill patients on Aug. 28, just before the storm, but no ambulances were available. "There was no getting out," said Ms. McCall, who runs Methodist's intensive-care unit.

After the levees broke, five feet of water filled Methodist's reception area within 15 minutes. Fires started when the main generator shorted out. But people kept arriving. "We had one woman who was a post-op kidney transplant swim in," she said.

The 827 people inside - 137 of them patients - stayed relatively calm until Wednesday, when food and water ran short and the heat reached 110 degrees. "You get a feeling of, Does anybody know we're here?" Ms. McCall said.

She was told by top officials at Universal Health Services, the company that runs the hospital, that they had rented two trucks with food, water and diesel fuel and sent them on, "but they were confiscated by federal authorities," she said. The company also hired two helicopters, but officials refused to let them fly, she said. Company officials declined to comment.

A police officer who is the husband of a Methodist nurse made his way home to get his boat and Jet Ski, Ms. McCall said. On his way back, she said, federal authorities commandeered the Jet Ski for attic rescues but let him keep the boat, with which he brought food, water and dry clothes.

By the time helicopters and FEMA evacuation trucks arrived Thursday, Sept. 1, people were so frustrated that one man who was not even a patient slipped into a hospital gown, trying to get out, she said.

When it was over, 16 patients had been put in the operating room designated as a morgue.

 

No Information, No Help

At the far end of the financial spectrum, serving the city's poorest patients, were Charity and University Hospitals.

As public hospitals, they had no money for private helicopters and had to rely on government officials. Like other hospitals, they were frustrated at getting no information about when help might be coming.

Dr. Dwayne A. Thomas, chief executive officer for both hospitals, said the Legislature had repeatedly declined to vote $8 million to retrofit them for hurricanes - both have electrical equipment in their basements.

So each June 1, as hurricane season starts, he said, he rents portable generators and stockpiles 36 hours' worth of oxygen and enough food and medicine for two weeks. Knowing that his toilets might stop working, he stores 1,000 five-gallon buckets lined with red infectious waste bags and hundreds of gallons of bleach.

After the levees broke, the water eventually rose to eight feet deep around Charity and University Hospitals.

The basement of Charity flooded, ruining much of the food before it could be moved upstairs. The main generators shut down, and the building became stifling hot.

The toilets did stop working, and Dr. Thomas had the buckets handed out, and told people to use the bags, pour in bleach, tie them off and throw them out the window.

"Some people were upset that we were polluting," he said. "But I said: Look, we're a hospital. We can't afford to let infection spread. Besides - look at the water. The sewers have backed up, it's full of oil. At least our bags are tied off."

Dr. Thomas, who was born at Charity Hospital, said the next four days "were as close as I've gotten to the third world. I felt like I was in a war zone."

About 60 flood survivors wandered in, and he gave them a lounge to sleep in and paper scrubs to wear. But after a day, "they started to complain - they got rowdy about the heat, and finally they got threatening, saying they wanted to eat, and wanted to eat before our staff did. They threatened our nurses with physical harm."

Shooting outside became regular and at one point, he said, "four guys went past us in a hot tub, paddling with two-by-fours. They had guns and two floating boxes with their loot."

Dr. Thomas had metal doors taken from inside the hospital and bolted to the glass outside doors.

A decision crucial to the fate of hundreds was made about 3 a.m. Tuesday, when M. L. Lagarde, president of the Delta division of HCA Healthcare, asleep in Tulane University Hospital, was woken up and told the water was rising.

HCA, the country's largest for-profit hospital chain, had leased 20 helicopters the week earlier. But now the helipad at the Superdome, two blocks away, which was normally used by all nearby hospitals, was cut off by the flooded streets.

They cleared cars and light stanchions from the top deck of Tulane's eight-story garage and set up a makeshift helipad.

It became the landing area for a mix of small private ambulance helicopters and big military Chinooks and Blackhawks. Waiting one floor below, out of the wash of the blades, were hundreds of patients and staff members, the walking ones in a line snaking up the stairs, the stretcher patients on a ramp.

Exactly what happened there is now at the center of a dispute between officials of Tulane University Hospital and the nearby public hospitals.

Because Charity and University were getting little help from the government, HCA told Dr. Thomas he could bring his patients over and they would be flown out too.

Dr. Thomas said he first put his neonatal babies in boats with their mothers and some doctors, "but they were turned around at gunpoint by Tulane police officers," he said. "They came back with the babies, with their mothers and fathers crying. Tulane was evacuating its staff first."

He also charged that, when he got 20 to 30 critically ill patients to the garage Thursday night, they lay on the roof for two hours while Tulane staff members were evacuated, and two of them died.

"That is reprehensible," he said, quietly furious. "To load able-bodied staff before you let patients off a roof is reprehensible."

Mr. Lagarde, who was on the roof, denied equally angrily that it happened that way. He said that helicopters came in unpredictably - some troop carriers with 40 seats, some medevacs with racks for two stretchers. He said they tried to load the sickest patients first.

"Turning away sick little babies?" Mr. Lagarde said. "Give me a break. Dwayne is just mistaken. There was no such order."

Charity's critical patients went out Thursday, Sept. 1, after most of the Tulane staff. The babies were taken out the next day, as order was being restored to the city.

In all, Dr. Thomas said, he lost only three patients from Charity and five from University. Another dozen had been in the morgue. HCA said it evacuated as many as 50 critically ill patients from Charity during the disaster.

 

'There Was No Central Command'

Tenet Healthcare, another for-profit hospital chain, grew increasingly frustrated at its inability to evacuate its two downtown hospitals, Memorial and Lindy Boggs. The Dallas headquarters of Tenet made frantic calls for help to a long list of officials, from the Coast Guard to the New Orleans police.

"There was no central command," said Bob Smith, a senior vice president for operations for the region. "They were clearly overwhelmed."

Early Wednesday, Aug. 31, the Office of Emergency Preparedness strongly suggested that Tenet act on its own. "That to us was the red flag," said Mr. Smith, who said he would have started 12 to 20 hours earlier if he had known.

After both hospitals were evacuated by week's end, the largest number of bodies - 45 - was found at Memorial. Ten had died before the hurricane, another 24 were on a floor for the most seriously ill, run by a company called by LifeCare Holdings.

The heat was unbearable, recalled Denise Danna, Memorial's chief nurse, who said her staff fanned patients by hand for hours.

Thinking help was imminent, they carried patients in wheelchairs to an exit and then waited - one day for 12 hours before giving up. "Those little patients never complained," she said.

As the hurricane gathered strength over the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 25, Bob Bates made the decision to get his patients out.

The manager of three nursing homes in the New Orleans area, Mr. Bates had signed contracts with two local bus companies to evacuate his 360 patients. He had also made deposits with each transport company to ensure that the buses would be available in a prestorm rush.

But when he called the bus company he was told "they had no drivers," Mr. Bates said.

He was not alone. Across New Orleans that weekend, state-mandated nursing home evacuation plans "fell spectacularly apart," said Linda Sadden, a government-financed advocate for nursing home residents. On paper, the state required nursing homes to have signed agreements with bus companies to evacuate patients, and have identified inland nursing homes to accept them. But no one had noticed that many homes had contracted with the same companies. "They were never ever going to be able to meet the need," Ms. Sadden said.

In the end, only 40 percent of the 53 nursing homes that evacuated did so before the storm, according to the State Department of Health.

Mr. Bates, meanwhile, was desperate to get his people out of the city. His staff called the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, which promised eight buses Sunday morning, a full day before the hurricane was expected to make landfall.

That morning, three buses arrived. Five others had been diverted to another home. With less than 24 hours to go before the storm made landfall, Mr. Bates and his administrators decided to evacuate the nursing home that faced the most potential danger from winds and flooding, and hunker down in the other two.

After the storm cleared Monday afternoon, Mr. Bates said he thought his homes had survived the storm. But when flooding knocked out power in the city late that afternoon, another problem arose. Emergency generators lacked enough power to run air-conditioning, and temperatures within the homes quickly rose.

Nurses began forcing patients to drink as much water as possible and used what generator power was left for fans and ice-making machines.

Mr. Bates finally reached a private bus company in Dallas. After making a 10-hour drive, the buses took the remaining patients from the other two homes on Thursday and Friday. But for some patients, Mr. Bates said, it was too late.

"We had some deaths in the facilities, which is not an abnormal occurrence," he said, declining to give a number.

 

Threats Beyond the Weather

Across town in the French Quarter, Andrew Sandler, the administrator of the Maison Hospitaliere nursing home, was dealing with similar problems. Initially, he decided, it would be too dangerous to evacuate his 60 to 70 patients on short notice. Mr. Sandler, a Michigan native, was terrified of hurricanes, but reasoned that his nursing home sat on high ground and that elderly residents had died during past evacuations.

"People die on bus rides sitting in traffic for 15 hours," he said.

But by Tuesday, after he lost air-conditioning and all running water, he said, he realized patients needed to leave and began calling for help.

Then another threat arose. On Wednesday, his staff woke him in a panic. "They said, 'Dr. Sandler get the pistol, there is someone in the courtyard,' " he said.

His staff nailed plywood over windows and doors. They placed a shotgun at the nursing home's front desk to deter ne'er-do-wells.

By Thursday, no buses had arrived and patients began to die in the heat. Bus managers told Mr. Sandler over the phone that FEMA officials had told drivers it was too dangerous to enter and that buses were needed at the Superdome.

On Friday, a convoy of buses escorted by police cars finally arrived. All told, four of his patients perished in the aftermath of the storm, including one who died during the evacuation to Houston.

"I feel like two or three of them, it might have been related to them not having air-conditioning," said the administrator, who praised the heroism of his staff and defended his original decision to stay put. "It could have been a lot worse."

In St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans, Salvatore and Mable Mangano, the operators of St. Rita's, made the fatal decision to wait out the storm. Local officials called the couple and offered to send two buses. The Manganos declined.

Last Tuesday, the state attorney general, Mr. Foti, indicted the couple on 34 counts of negligent homicide in the drowning deaths. So far, no other nursing home operators have been charged.

In East New Orleans, the eight nuns and five nurses who operate the Lafon Nursing Home made the same decision not to evacuate. What exactly happened at the home, though, remains a mystery. The home's operators declined to be interviewed. Instead, they issued a statement this week saying its staff moved patients to the second floor and cared for them at all times. Fourteen Lafon residents died.

On the brick outside the home's front entrance this week were spray-painted X's left by recovery workers. On the right side, dated 9-9, were the words "14 dead." On the doors leading to the cafeteria were taped signs that read "Morgue." The gurneys were lined up inside. Brown stains on white tablecloths revealed how high the water rose in the room - about three and a half feet.

In one ground-floor sitting room, a Bible sat open to Psalm 34, which reads in part: "I will bless the Lord at all times; praise shall be always in my mouth."

Michael Luo, Jennifer Steinhauer and Paul von Zielbauer contributed reporting for this article.

    Vulnerable, and Doomed in the Storm, NYT, 19.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/19/national/nationalspecial/19victims.html

 

 

 

 

 

In a Parking Lot,

Under a Tent and Amid the Chaos,

Sunday Goes On

 

September 19, 2005
The New York Times

By MICHAEL BRICK

 

GRETNA, La., Sept. 18 - Sunday morning came again to New Orleans, and thousands were still gone from that barren landscape of piebald-mud-caked and things-out-of-place. In some quarters only cinderblocks and tires remained, odd remnants of homes become landing zones. On Canal Street, breakfast was coffee and oatmeal and little besides.

But it was no less Sunday in the South, the third since the levees broke on a city where the ghost of Pere Dagobert was said to moan Kyrie eleison late at night in Jackson Square, where nuns roamed among drunkards and the horns blew "When the Saints Go Marchin' In."

Downtown no chaplain could be found to preach for the Salvation Army workers or the soldiers under the Budweiser Hurricane Katrina Relief tent down by the casino. The windows were gone from Tilly's Chapel Services in Bywater, and the doors were closed on the Way Jesus Christ Christian Church on St. Charles Avenue. Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes had spoken of a Mass at St. Louis Cathedral for rescue workers, but gave no certain date.

In that city where old-time religion and voodoo converge, where the parades end when Lent begins, this Sunday brought works and deeds in great number and little time for preaching. Here on the outskirts of town, where some are returning if only to look, God was summoned to a place where the traffic lights were coming back on.

Across the Mississippi River Bridge, past O'Charley's Lounge and Tyler's Pool Hall, past a clothing handout and a sign that thanked you for keeping Gretna clean, the congregants of a ruined church in Jefferson Parish were setting up what looked like St. Mary of the Parking Lot.

A line of pickup trucks a dozen strong waited beside B. J.'s Pawn Shop to turn onto asphalt covered in tiny seashells, where felled palm trees, pine cones and plastic bottles measured the distance from the Piccadilly Cafeteria to Fantastic Sam's. In the corner of the lot, by LaPalco and Wall Boulevards, a tent rose above the trucks.

A plastic sign marked with a cross said, "Believer's Life Family Church, Sunday Morning Tent Service 10:30." Inside the tent were gray plastic chairs in 23 rows, their backs marked "New Orleans Party Rental."

Eynes Mendez was sitting in the last chair in the back row, eating a plate of beans and bread from a charity truck. His T-shirt said "San Francisco," and he said he was 29 going on 50. He looked to be the mean between the two.

"I got kicked out of New Orleans," Mr. Mendez said. He finished the beans and speculated on whether he would stay for the service. "I was passing by. Ain't got nowhere else to go. Wish I could go back across the river. Even though I don't have a home, that's where I make my way."

At the front of the tent was a small red stage a foot high, with a glassy lectern and a black Bible. An industrial fan blew on the band: bass, keyboards, drums and guitar played through a Marshall amplifier. The church elders said that their building on Paxton Street had been destroyed by the hurricane; they had bought the abandoned grocery store at the back of the lot, but it was draped with a tarpaulin.

"In the meantime, we're using our parking lot," said Lyndi Day, an elder. She said the church had an average attendance of 1,000, though there had been no services since the hurricane.

The chairs were filling with families, a group of teenage girls, a woman in a shirt that said "Jesus Rocks." They came in floral prints and T-shirts, in flip-flops and toenail polish, sunglasses and ball caps and cellphones clipped to their pants.

"I've had offers to go other places," said Warren Plaisance, 52, a steelworker, "but I wanted to hold out until my home church opened up."

Then the band played a two-chord vamp and the preacher's wife, Cathy Cilluffo, sang that God was awesome in this place. Women with hair dyed blond danced holding babies, older women clapped on the two and four beats, and the music strained the speakers.

The service had begun and still people kissed cheeks in the broken asphalt aisle; they bounced now on canted toes, singing words projected overhead as the drummer played double time on the snare. It was 95 degrees under the canvas, but there was jubilation in the parking lot.

The music slowed and a woman gave a drink of water to her husband balancing their child; the piano made a high lonesome sound and the people sang: "What can wash us pure as snow, welcomed as the friends of God? Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood of Jesus."

Mrs. Cilluffo asked people who had lost their homes to stand, and three couples did. Others jumped from their seats and touched them with their palms, held their hands and chests and shoulders and heads. The preacher's wife said the Holy Spirit was coming.

The preacher, Randy Cilluffo, wore a silver watch and shirtsleeves and a mustache. He held a microphone in his left hand, and he spoke of a prophesied cleansing of New Orleans.

He came into the aisle, chopping the air with an open palm and saying ours is not to diagram the mysteries of God. He asked if he could hear an amen, and he could. The children were stirring and cries went up and shirts were sweat-soaked and the fan blades pushed the steamed wind. The service ended, and many of the people wandered away. At the back of the tent, Mr. Mendez spoke of food, clothing and roofs.

"Those aren't spiritual things," he said. "Those aren't things to pray for. Until we get those done, nothing's going to change."

Mr. Mendez turned and rode away on his bicycle, while under the tent there was one more song about beauty and glory and majesty and angels singing, and the women closed their eyes and swayed in the parking lot on Sunday afternoon.

    In a Parking Lot, Under a Tent and Amid the Chaos, Sunday Goes On, NYT, 19.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/19/national/nationalspecial/19worship.html

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina survivor found as officials clash

 

Sun Sep 18, 2005 6:34 PM ET
Reuters
By Matt Daily and Ellen Wulfhorst

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Rescue workers combing hard-hit New Orleans neighborhoods found a survivor on Sunday who had camped out in his home since Hurricane Katrina, while officials clashed over when residents should return to the devastated city.

The discovery of survivor Reyne Johnson nearly three weeks after Katrina ripped southern Louisiana and Mississippi relieved the search crews, who had been finding more and more corpses as floodwaters that forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the historic city recede.

The Louisiana death toll rose to 646 on Sunday, bringing the total dead from Katrina to 883, including 218 in Mississippi and 19 combined in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Johnson, 39, and his dog were discovered in his small house in an impoverished section of eastern New Orleans caked with mud by the flood.

"I'm doing a little better now," said Johnson, who appeared disoriented after he answered rescuers' knock.

He was the first survivor found since a 76-year-old was rescued on Friday. Search and rescue teams had suspected someone was in Johnson's home and had been leaving food and water, but he had not responded to earlier attempts to make contact.

"Everybody just scared me," Johnson explained. "Since the flood, I was sitting there."

"We were pretty stoked to see somebody in there we could help out," said Staff Sgt. Robert Andrade, a National Guardsman from Oregon.

 

WHEN TO COME HOME

The rescue was a bright spot in a day when uncertainty clouded New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's plan to reopen parts of the city to residents. Nagin said New Orleans, formerly home to half a million people but mostly abandoned, needs to start returning to life.

Nagin has said people in areas less affected by Katrina could begin returning home on Monday, but Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, head of the federal recovery efforts in New Orleans, insisted the city was not ready.

He said the lack of drinkable water, sewage and electricity in much of New Orleans posed health problems and another storm would put people in danger because Katrina had breached levees that protect the low-lying city from Lake Pontchartrain.

"If you bring significant amounts of people into New Orleans, you need an evacuation plan," Allen said during a round of TV appearances on Sunday.

Allen said he and Nagin planned to meet on Monday.

The mayor allowed business owners back into parts of the city this weekend. In the historic French Quarter, downtown business district and parts of the Uptown neighborhoods, they could be seen sweeping up and repairing damage in shops and restaurants closed since Katrina struck on August 29.

Many were damaged by the storm, but others fell victim to looters who rampaged as rescue efforts floundered. Thousands of troops shipped in to restore order still patrol the city.

Business owners vowed to reopen as quickly as possible.

"If you're here for the next Mardi Gras, you'd never think there was a hurricane. The streets will be full again," said Chellie Smith, who owns four bars in the French Quarter.

"Nothing can put us down. They'll all come back. It's New Orleans. There's no place like it," said Jon Olmstead, general manager of a Bourbon Street strip joint.

Others said it would not be so easy.

At P&J Oyster Company, owner Sal Sunseri and his brother and business partner Al wore facemasks against the stench of thousands of pounds of rotting oysters they hauled to a truck.

Powerful Katrina, which slammed into Louisiana with 140 mile per hour winds (224 kph) and a 30-foot storm surge, damaged not only his business, but many oyster beds.

"It is devastated. It might take two years to recover," said Sunseri, whose home was also wrecked in the storm.

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox and Kieran Murray in New Orleans, Ben Berkowitz and Kenneth Li in Baton Rouge and Randall Mikkelsen in Washington)

    Katrina survivor found as officials clash, R, 18.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-18T223402Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi jobless claims hit 35,000

 

Sun Sep 18, 2005 8:08 PM ET
Reuters
By Carey Gillam

 

GULFPORT, Mississippi (Reuters)- Mississippians are filing well more than 1,000 jobless claims a day in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and that rate is expected to accelerate over the coming days, officials said Sunday.

As of Friday, Mississippi had received 35,000 claims for unemployment since Katrina hit August 29. The storm killed more than 200 in Mississippi and wiped out or seriously damaged more than 100,000 homes and businesses along a string of the state's Gulf Coast communities.

"There is such shock ... some people are just now seeking assistance," said Stan McMorris, a Mississippi Department of Employment Security deputy director. "I look for our numbers to increase tremendously over the next week."

The state's jobless rate was 5.5 percent before the hurricane struck.

The state projects it will be hit with 300,000 jobless claims related to Katrina, with each eligible person paid $210 a week for six months.

"This is taxing all our resources," McMorris said. "This is over and above anything we've ever seen."

Indeed, unemployment officials in neighboring states, including in hurricane-savvy Florida, have moved into Mississippi to offer manpower and technology to handle the load.

With many regional unemployment offices themselves heavily damaged in the hurricane, officials are deploying traveling claims centers in mobile trailers across the coastline, placing them in parking lots where retail shops remain shuttered.

At one such Gulfport shopping center, where all but three of the more than two dozen retailers have been closed since the storm, a steady trickle of area residents were filing their claims Sunday.

Claims center manager Mark Landry said there are a few jobs emerging as area hotels, restaurants and other businesses start to come back on line only to find their former employees dispersed, missing or unable to work.

But the bulk of the jobs now available in the region are limited to hourly debris removal, building repair, and related positions, Landry said.

    Mississippi jobless claims hit 35,000, R, 18.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-19T000839Z_01_KWA873206_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-JOBLESS.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Feds, locals

clash on return to N.Orleans

 

Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:53 PM ET
Reuters
By Matt Daily

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Federal and local authorities clashed on Sunday over whether New Orleans was ready for residents to return, putting in doubt efforts to quickly resettle the devastated city.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, head of the federal recovery efforts in New Orleans, said the city lacked most basic services -- such as drinkable water, sewage and electricity. Its protective levees remained vulnerable, and the city lacked a plan to respond to any new emergency.

Tens of thousands of New Orleans' residents ravaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly three weeks ago remain housed in temporary shelters across the United States, with many poised to return home when officials permit.

Mayor Ray Nagin has been encouraging many to return this week, but Allen said he was far more cautious after consulting with the heads of the Environmental Protection Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.

"If you bring significant amounts of people into New Orleans, you need an evacuation plan," Allen said during a round of TV appearances on Sunday. It also needed safe water to drink, working telephones, and a storm-warning system.

"The announcement to move the repopulation ahead of any of those completed tasks in our view puts the city at risk," he said.

Allen said he and the mayor planned to meet on Monday.

But Nagin has strenuously defended his call for many citizens to return, saying reoccupying the city was vital to New Orleans' revival.

"We believe our re-entry plan properly balances safety concerns and the needs of our citizens to begin rebuilding their lives," Nagin said on Saturday.

 

LOW TRAFFIC

Despite Nagin's invitation, there were few signs people were rushing to get back into the Big Easy.

"Traffic is extremely light going into the city," said Sgt. Cathy Flinchum of the Louisiana State Police.

State homeland security officials said the relief effort was improving, after weeks of chaos blamed on a disorganized federal recovery effort and a lack of coordination among local, state and federal agencies.

"What we're more focused on is continuing to get the aid and necessary supplies to those in need," said Mark Smith, spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Just one week ago, the state was charging FEMA with moving too slowly on a host of issues, especially housing, but in the last few days it has sharply toned down its criticism of the federal government in favor of building a warmer relationship to ensure relief dollars continue flowing.

But Smith said it remained unclear whether it would be possible to meet a goal of moving all evacuees out of shelters within a month.

Katrina's death toll so far stands at 883, with 646 of those in Louisiana, 218 in Mississippi and a total of 19 in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Floodwaters continued to recede in New Orleans and appeared confined to the eastern end of the city. Yet medical experts in New Orleans said they still feared a "second disaster" as returning residents suffered injuries amid the rubble, toppled trees and dangling power lines.

 

BACK TO BUSINESS

Despite those fears, Nagin has asked business owners in the historic French Quarter, the downtown business district and parts of the Uptown neighborhoods to return to the city that only days ago was nearly entirely underwater after levees along Lake Pontchartrain gave way.

"Promoting the return of commerce to New Orleans and the region is key if we are going to realize our common objective: to bring New Orleans back," Nagin said.

Saturday night, many lights were back on downtown and in the French Quarter as electricity was restored in some sections.

"If you're here for the next Mardi Gras, you'd never think there was a hurricane. The streets will be full again," vowed Chellie Smith, who owns four bars in the French Quarter.

But his wife Tricia was less optimistic. "I'd say two years before we're back to the way it was," she said.

Across the Mississippi River, residents of the Algiers neighborhood were relieved to find their homes largely undamaged by the worst-ever natural disaster to hit the United States.

"We're very thankful," said Gene Harris, 64, as he and his wife and son inspected their 19th century house. Harris was surprised to find both electricity and running water in the home he fled nearly three weeks ago.

"I may use this opportunity to buy some properties," he added, surveying the neighborhood. "Because (Algiers) did not sustain any damage, property values will go up even higher."

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox and Kieran Murray in New Orleans, Ben Berkowitz and Kenneth Li in Baton Rouge and Randall Mikkelsen in Washington)

    Feds, locals clash on return to N.Orleans, R, 18.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-18T175302Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina rebuilding

up-ends Bush's economic agenda

 

Sun Sep 18, 2005
11:41 AM ET
Reuters
By Caren Bohan

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ambitious plans to restore the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast are set to top U.S. President George W. Bush's economic agenda well into 2006, raising new doubts about his pre-Katrina priorities like making his tax cuts permanent.

Bush gave no price tag when he pledged that the federal government would pay the bulk of the costs for one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. But estimates in Congress hover around $200 billion.

With such a vast amount of money at stake, wrangling over how it is spent is sure to occupy much of Bush's time.

The president is trying to put a Republican stamp on the effort with market-oriented initiatives like enterprise zones that give businesses that locate there special tax breaks. He has also proposed vouchers that displaced families can use to send their children to private schools.

But even as Katrina takes center stage, Bush and his aides insist that little else but the timing has changed for economic goals he laid out just after his re-election last year: making his previously passed tax cuts permanent, and revamping Social Security and the tax code.

Political analysts say that simply is not realistic.

"The debt is going to be crushing," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia.

Concerning Bush's prior economic goals, Sabato said, "There's no room on the agenda, there's no room in Congress and there's no room politically."

A Republican congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed.

 

'POLITICAL DISASTER'

"On top of there being a natural disaster, there was a political disaster," he said, referring to a drop in Bush's approval ratings to new lows amid perceptions he botched the initial response to Katrina.

The congressional aide said that leaves Bush with little political capital to push for controversial ideas such as repealing the estate tax, an initiative that would benefit only the wealthiest Americans.

The objective of making the Bush tax cuts permanent is the one that administration officials such as U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow have emphasized the most lately.

A few Republicans have broached the idea of further nationwide tax cuts, but the White House has refrained from embracing that idea and talk of such additional cuts has quieted as estimates for Katrina's costs have grown.

Within Republicans ranks, there is rising alarm about the hit from the disaster to an already-large budget deficit. Some conservatives worry Bush is poised to hand out blank checks.

Responding to such concerns, Bush said he would find ways to offset some of the costs in the budget but he ruled out tax increases to pay for the rebuilding.

"You bet, it's going to cost money," he said. "But I'm confident we can handle it and I'm confident we can handle our other priorities."

Parts of Bush's agenda such as adding private accounts to Social Security "seemed unlikely to pass before Katrina" and seems even less likely to now, said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas.

Bush's aim of simplifying the tax code is still under study by a commission he appointed at the start of this year.

The panel is weighing ideas like getting rid of popular deductions such as those for state and local taxes and some for employer-provided health insurance.

"It's too controversial," Sabato said.

Cesar Conda, former domestic policy aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, said that Congress's legislative plate for economic issues will be all but filled up with Katrina-related legislation through the end of this year.

But he was confident that when lawmakers do revisit extending the tax cuts, they will pass it.

"Among Republicans, I don't think you would get any defections," he said.

    Katrina rebuilding up-ends Bush's economic agenda, R, 18.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-18T154052Z_01_SPI854925_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-BUSH-ECONOMY.xml

 

 

 

 

 

'Second disaster'

may follow Katrina: doctors

 

Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:03 PM ET
Reuters
By Maggie Fox,
Health and Science Correspondent

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Doctors are bracing themselves for what they call a "second disaster" as New Orleans-area residents return to their devastated city.

While environmentalists warn of the long-term danger to health from possibly polluted floodwaters, and rumors of disease swirl, front-line emergency doctors say the actual health danger will come from accidents.

"The second wave of disaster is when you welcome the people back and the infrastructure of the city is not in place," said Dr. Peter Deblieux, an emergency room doctor at downtown New Orleans' Charity Hospital.

Officials in New Orleans and surrounding Jefferson Parish began allowing residents to return over the weekend and say everyone can come back by mid-week. But residents whose homes were not completely destroyed will confront fallen trees, wrecked roofs and streets full of nails.

Someone will have to clean it up.

"We will see the chainsaw people -- lacerations of the left thigh, lacerations of the left forearm," Deblieux said in an interview. "There will be people falling off the scaffolding."

Public health experts concur. After Hurricane Charley hit Florida in 2004, 77 percent of the deaths blamed on the hurricane were classified as unintentional injury.

Deblieux is concerned about plans to allow more than 180,000 people to return to New Orleans with only four area hospitals up and running, and only one of those in New Orleans proper.

Charity, the city's free public hospital, remains closed, its electricity panels destroyed by flooding. "Where will people get treatment?" asked Deblieux.

Some areas will continue to lack electricity and clean drinking water.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who heads the federal recovery effort, voiced similar concerns. He noted that hurricane season is not over.

"If you bring significant amounts of people into New Orleans, you need an evacuation plan on how you're going to do that," he told CNN on Sunday.

 

INVISIBLE DANGERS

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching an education effort to caution people about the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if they use generators.

While some areas have uncontaminated water, 90 percent of the population does not, the CDC said on Saturday.

"It is contaminated with human and animal waste. But there isn't this sort of toxic soup out there," said Dr. Tom Clark, an infectious disease specialist at the CDC.

The CDC and Environmental Protection Agency are both telling people to wash off mud or dirt as soon as possible and to avoid getting flood water on themselves.

There are heavy metals and oil products such as diesel fuel in the water -- but not huge amounts. And as the mud dries, some compounds, especially metals such as lead and arsenic, will remain in the dirt.

There has been some diarrhea but no epidemics and despite fears, evacuees are not spreading diseases widely. And if people are careful, the contaminated tap water should not pose any great threat, the CDC said.

"E. coli in general are normal flora of the gastrointestinal tracts of people and animals," Clark said.

Some are toxic -- such as the E. coli 0157 strain that can cause deadly food poisoning, especially in children.

The E. coli being measured in city water is not in itself especially harmful but rather means the water is contaminated. And that does not necessarily mean unusual diseases.

"A lot of the time what you see (after a disaster like this) is an increase of what was already there before," Clark said.

    'Second disaster' may follow Katrina: doctors, R, 18.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-18T170236Z_01_HO821730_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-HEALTH.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Business Owners

Start to Return to New Orleans

 

September 18, 2005
The New York Times
By WILLIAM YARDLEY

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 17 - Business owners and some residents slowly returned to parts of this storm-struck city and surrounding communities early Saturday, prying back plywood and stepping over ruined steeples on the first day of a staggered re-entry scheduled to move ZIP code by ZIP code, parish by parish.

Carol Winn Crawford, pastor of the 130-year-old Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church on St. Charles Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood, stood in the sanctuary where roof slates rest in the pews. Outside, the brick steeple was reduced to rubble.

"Not this Sunday," Ms. Crawford said, when asked how soon services would resume, "but the next."

After passing through armed checkpoints, many business owners across the city were seeing their businesses for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, eventually flooding 80 percent of the city and forcing mass evacuations.

They arrived in a city with little electricity and mostly undrinkable water, where soldiers did jumping jacks on Napoleon Avenue as a red sun rose. About 1,000 workers from Entergy repaired utility poles and untangled power lines from the fallen limbs of live oaks. Mayor C. Ray Nagin has ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew indefinitely.

Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who is in charge of the federal recovery effort, urged residents to stay away from New Orleans for the time being. The Associated Press reported on Saturday night that Admiral Allen had expressed concerns about plans to allow residents to return to the city, and that he would discuss those concerns with Mayor Nagin in a meeting on Monday.

President Bush, who has faced sharp criticism for the federal response to the storm, pledged in his Saturday radio address to support the Gulf Coast in "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen."

A few businesses promised to reopen almost immediately. Others, crippled from storm damage or vandalism and looting, needed time to clean and make repairs. Most were on higher ground in a city where much of the land is below sea level. Several said they were relieved that the damage was limited, all things considered.

And for some people who never left the city, the return of the business owners meant more than just a neighborly reunion.

"I've got like two gallons of water left, so I hope people come back soon and open something up," said Bill Roach, 48, standing outside his second-floor room in an apartment house near the corner of Magazine and Jena Streets in the Uptown area.

Mr. Roach, pointing to the light traffic coming up Magazine, said he had expected more of a morning rush into town. "I'm surprised they're not lining the streets right now," he said.

Business owners are being allowed to return this weekend to four areas: Uptown, the French Quarter, the central business district and, across the Mississippi River, the neighborhood of Algiers. Before the storm, Orleans Parish, which has the same boundaries as the city of New Orleans, had 10,460 establishments with 208,288 employees and an annual payroll of $7 billion, according to a 2003 breakdown by the Census Bureau, the most recent available.

Residents are expected to be able to return to the same four areas on a staggered basis over the next week, beginning with Algiers on Monday and ending with the French Quarter the next Monday. But many residents have been unclear on the schedule, and some began returning on Saturday.

The reopening could eventually bring as many as 200,000 people back to a city whose population was about 445,000 before the storm. There are no plans to re-open the most heavily damaged areas, some of which remain under floodwaters.

On Friday, the city released re-entry guidelines it planned to distribute at two primary entry points, the intersection of Interstate 10 East at the Pontchartrain Expressway and the West Bank Expressway into Algiers.

Among the warnings:

"You are entering at your own risk. The City of New Orleans remains a hazardous site, and ongoing health and safety issues are being assessed."

"You may not be outside between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., either in a vehicle or on foot. This will be strictly enforced. Keep personal identification with you at all times."

"Police and fire services are limited. The 911 system is not fully functional at this time."

Mayor Nagin has said he has been criticized for not reopening parts of the city sooner. Others say it remains far from ready for residents.

Admiral Allen warned of health risks from floodwaters, sludge and tap water.

"We will continue to work with local and state leaders to support the shared goal of allowing residents to eventually return in a safe and sustainable manner," Admiral Allen said in a statement. "I urge all residents returning to use extreme caution if they return and to consider delaying their return until safer and more livable conditions are established."

In Algiers on Saturday morning, Serge and Mai Chatain found their business intact after driving all night from Houston to check on it. They own a nail salon, Anna's Nails, off of Gen. Charles de Gaulle Highway.

"We open the door, and the phone rings," Mr. Chatain said. They agreed to meet the caller, a drugstore owner, at 4 p.m.

"They need nails," Mrs. Chatain said. "They have horrible nails."

Not everyone could get back to business so quickly.

Liem Vu, the owner of Newton's Discount Market in Algiers, found his store broken into and the shelves bare. Anything portable was stolen.

"Even the meat slicer, the microwave, the TV for the security camera," Mr. Vu said.

Mr. Vu said he sympathized with the looters, to a degree.

"Food, O.K.," he said. "People went a little bit too far."

Areas outside the city also allowed re-entry on Saturday.

Jefferson Parish, west of the city, had already allowed business owners to return and planned to allow full residential access beginning on Sunday. In St. Bernard Parish, where floodwaters had risen to 20 feet and the Murphy Oil refinery had spilled thousands of barrels, parts of the Arabi and Chalmette neighborhoods were opened at dawn for residents to take stock of their ruined homes.

In New Orleans, Gwen and John Deakle returned from their farm in Lumberton, Miss., to the elegant five-bedroom house they own on Royal Street in the French Quarter. They had been warned of damage behind the iron gates leading to the back patio, but not of the extent. A third-floor wall of Antoine's, a 19th-century French-Creole restaurant next door, had collapsed in their courtyard.

Although the power was out and the ferns had withered on the balcony, a flashlight-tour of the interior found the antiques intact behind the shuttered windows.

"Like everybody says, it could have been worse," Ms. Deakle said.

Despite concerns about the re-entry process, people reported few lines or complications, in part because the number of people returning seemed relatively small.

One soldier on St. Charles, a major cross-town thoroughfare, said late Saturday afternoon that he had counted only about six cars an hour passing his checkpoint, but that another, on South Claiborne Avenue, had counted 100 cars an hour.

Some people returning were surprised that, except for Algiers, most of the newly opened areas still lacked power. A spokeswoman for Entergy, Amy Stallings, said several obstacles were causing delays, including a door-by-door check for gas leaks in the French Quarter and water in office building basements, which often house electrical vaults.

The company will not restore power to areas where underground power lines are flooded, perhaps because of broken water mains.

"It's gaining water while we're pumping water, and we're not really sure where it's coming from," Ms. Stallings said.

Ms. Stallings said the company hoped to have power restored to the French Quarter and the central business district by Friday and to Uptown by the next Monday.

The heat that has helped the city dry out in many areas has also stewed rotting garbage. Even as signs of life returned to the pungent streets, the environment was hardly ideal for commerce.

The doors of the historic Napoleon House bar on Chartres Street remained closed. Across town, on South Carrollton Avenue, the Camellia Grill had boards in the windows. And Domilise's, the unpretentious po'-boy sandwich institution on Annunciation Street in Uptown, was silent, its broken sign blocking the front door.

At K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter, the chef, Paul Prudhomme, has instructed his staff members to reopen "as soon as possible," said L. Carl Crowder, vice president for operations of the celebrity chef's restaurant.

The 235-seat restaurant regained power by late morning, but major obstacles remained before it could reopen, said Joel Poole, the human resources manager.

He said he had yet to hear from about half of the 30 people who work in the kitchen, many of whom lost homes and are living in shelters.

"Our big need," Mr. Poole said, noting the human flight from the city, "is going to be people."

Michael Brick and Michael Luo contributed reporting from New Orleans for this article, and Timothy Williams from Baton Rouge, La.

    Business Owners Start to Return to New Orleans, NYT, 18.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18storm.html?hp&ex=1127102400&en=f552ccdcd92742ca&ei=5094&partner=homepage

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to Neighborhoods

That Are No Longer Home

 

By MICHAEL BRICK
The New York Times

 

ST. BERNARD PARISH, La., Sept. 17 - At dawn the auburn sun on St. Bernard Highway told the soldiers to open the road so that certain travelers might pass. The soldiers had blocked the way with freight cars and M-16's. They were wearing surgical masks.

Past the roadblock, the La Loutre, Terre Aux Boufs and Sauvage bayou channels had formed marshlands where men once fought the Battle of New Orleans. Plantations had come and gone, and refineries, too. The floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina had risen 20 feet, killed 100 people here, ruptured a tank and spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil on the streets.

On Saturday morning, some of the tens of thousands of scattered sons and daughters of the parish, across the Mississippi River east of New Orleans, were allowed to return to their ruined homes to gather belongings and see the damage. They were told to bring rubber boots and no children.

Such demand for this privilege was expected that visits were to take place in seven cycles, the last beginning on Sept. 29. Admission to St. Bernard Parish on Saturday required proof of residence in the neighborhoods of Arabi and Chalmette, but the lure of home had been misgauged.

The sun rose higher and turned yellow, and no lines formed. Inside the roadblock, a weather-beaten sign said, "Think Positive, St. Bernard." The highway was mostly empty save for military convoys. There was a dead horse by the road, and some cows were grazing.

Down an unmarked side street, dogs roamed. A television dangled five feet above the ground outside a shotgun house, suspended by a plug attached on the other side of the wall. A truck upended in the water had a bumper sticker with a message about drugs.

On the low-lying side of the railroad tracks along the Mississippi River, east of the Violet River in the area that no one is allowed to enter until the end of the month, a green truck towing a small metal trailer stopped next to 2005 Riverbend Drive.

Three riders emerged; the youngest, Christopher Lynch, 19. A Confederate flag was tattooed on his arm. He had dressed for the trip in camouflage waders and a T-shirt with a picture of a fish. The men had set out from a kind stranger's home in Auburndale, Fla., and drove through the night to get here on Saturday morning. There was nowhere to sleep in New Orleans, anyway. Mr. Lynch said most of his friends would wait until the official openings of their neighborhoods, if they came back at all.

"You almost have to, unless you can sneak by the system," Mr. Lynch said. "Business stickers, police pass, something."

One of his traveling companions was David Roberts, who has a lawn-mowing business, a job with Sara Lee and part-time work with the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Department.

"I got a lot of bills," Mr. Roberts said. He was wearing a T-shirt that said "Dump Her."

The third man was Darryn Melerine, whose parents owned the house on Riverbend Drive. This was the first of several stops the men planned to make, gathering possessions for friends and family members around the country.

It was early still, and their tasks were many. A lawyer named Bruce Betzer wanted anything they could salvage from his house in Meraux. Mr. Melerine wanted to see his own home. The first job was getting some rings that belonged to Mr. Melerine's parents from the house on Riverbend Drive.

"Watch out for the snakes," Mr. Melerine said. The men looked into the house. Some big black dogs lumbered into the yard, panting, and stopped and stared. The dogs stared some more and then turned and ran off. The men waded into the house. Mr. Melerine looked in the living room, then the bedroom. He pushed a mattress aside and raised an upended dresser, then opened a drawer.

"There it is," Mr. Melerine said, cupping the rings. "This is what I came for."

The men walked back over the wooden pilings and downed branches in the yard and got into the truck and drove toward Violet. Mr. Melerine's house was not far from his father's.

They drove past the Dollar Mart and the bakery that sold King Cakes. They stopped at Tony Ryan's house to get his electric saw, but the mud in his house was too thick. They abandoned the saw and drove on, past a Mitsubishi Eclipse on the roof of a house with white columns. They changed lanes when they passed downed power lines, and they crossed the median when the mud got thick.

They drove to a housing development in Meraux. One house had a sign that said it was the home of a Holy Cross Tiger. They turned onto Florida Avenue, where the street was a line of roofs pounded down onto exposed beams with strips of brick in places.

At 4237 Florida Avenue, Mr. Roberts got out and took pictures of Mr. Betzer's toilet sitting there on Mr. Betzer's foundation. The rest of the house was gone. Mr. Roberts made a sucking sound with his teeth.

The men set up a stepladder for no good reason, then found a piggybank that said "College Fund" and a couple of family pictures. They walked past Mr. Betzer's daughter's baby doll and Mr. Betzer's Hungry Jack maple syrup and got back in the truck.

A quarter-mile up a street called St. Marie, a house was blocking the road. Mr. Melerine got out of the truck and went into his own house, where he retrieved photo albums, the national championship trophy he had won as a member of the New Orleans Hit Men flag football team, a filthy teddy bear and the wedding dress worn by his wife, Ashley Melerine, a cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints. He collected these things in the trailer, then thought better of it and threw the bear and the trophy back into the mud, along with his empty Gatorade bottle.

The men made a three-point turn in front of the house blocking the road, then set off for Mr. Roberts's place, three blocks from the breached Murphy Oil refinery. They drove through the dark oily mud past volcanic landscapes of caked and brittle soil, past statues of the Virgin Mary and past sand dumped from trucks, past refinery fires and past a metal barricade marked by the sheriff's office, to a place where the mud stood three feet in the street.

"Whoo," Mr. Roberts said. "Yeah, there ain't no way to get to my house."

The truck stopped at a street corner, and Mr. Roberts said he was glad he had come.

"You don't know until you come here," he said, "that you never want to come back."

Mr. Melerine said his wife would be happy to get her wedding dress.

"If she can just see it," he said. "She'll probably end up throwing it away."

Then a soldier in Army fatigues walked up and said the street was contaminated. There were two helicopters in the sky. The soldier said to get in the truck and drive back up St. Bernard Highway. He did not make it sound like a choice.

    Returning to Neighborhoods That Are No Longer Home, NYT, 18.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18scene.html


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darryn Melerine searched through the bedroom of his house

in Meraux, St. Bernard Parish, for his wife's wedding dress.

 

Doug Mills/The New York Times       

 

Business Owners Start to Return to New Orleans        NYT        18.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Melerine searched for personal belongings in his living room.

 

Doug Mills/The New York Times

 

Business Owners Start to Return to New Orleans        NYT        18.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Melerine searched what was left of a friend's house.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Business Owners Start to Return to New Orleans        NYT        18.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After days spent sheltered in a gymnasium in Baton Rouge, La.,

Virginia Chatelain, left, and Gladys Williams

were evacuated to Haven Nursing Center in northeastern Louisiana.

 

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

 

Aging, Frail, and Now Refugees From a Devastating Hurricane        NYT        18.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18frail.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aging, Frail,

and Now Refugees

From a Devastating Hurricane

 

September 18, 2005
The New York Times
By JANE GROSS

 

COLUMBIA, La., Sept. 15 - The frail residents of the Wynhoven Health Care Center fled New Orleans and the havoc of Hurricane Katrina for a high school gymnasium, where they spent four nights sleeping on the floor with just inches between them. Then they endured a 10-hour bus ride to this rural outpost in northeastern Louisiana more than 200 miles from home that might as well have been the far side of the moon.

They subsisted on bag lunches, did without their insulin or blood-pressure medicine, risked infection from catheters that were necessary when no toilets were available, and finally arrived here at the Haven Nursing Center with no medical records and only the clothes on their backs.

It would take several days to figure out whose medications were whose because all of them had been tossed into one big plastic sack for the harrowing journey. It would take several more days before proper beds arrived for the deserted wing of the nursing home that had been slated for demolition and then hastily readied to accept them. Several more days would be needed to locate relatives, many of them homeless and scattered themselves.

And they were the lucky ones, spared the fate of 32 residents of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish who were left to fend for themselves and died in the floodwaters.

But even a successful evacuation is an ordeal with potentially deadly consequences for people in wheelchairs, or tethered to oxygen tanks, or confused by dementia, all of them at high risk of what geriatric experts call transfer trauma.

A few of the new residents at Haven Nursing Center seemed dazed and disoriented, fighting back tears and clinging white-knuckled to their rosary beads. Some asked repeatedly, "Where am I?" but brightened when told by staff members or volunteers, without confusing details, "You're here with a lot of your friends from New Orleans."

Several wound up hospitalized for urinary tract infections and high blood pressure and one with a broken hip that she guessed was a result of shuffling off to the bathroom in donated bedroom slippers a couple of sizes too big.

But many of the 46 recent arrivals, part of a diaspora of 180 from Wynhoven, in Marrero, La., who were dispersed to seven different nursing homes, had only praise for the way they had been evacuated and then welcomed here by staff members, longtime residents and volunteers from down the street and across the nation.

"They called my children so they knew where I was going," said Linah Naquin, 88. "And here, they couldn't treat us better than they have." The worst part, she said, was being hoisted from the floor at the gymnasium of the St. Thomas More parochial school in Baton Rouge each morning to make way for dining tables, and the tiring bus ride to Columbia. The best part was telling her son, himself a Katrina evacuee, that she still had her roommate from Wynhoven because "he knows we get along swell."

Mrs. Naquin, who is wheelchair-bound, had her hair done two weeks after her arrival at the Haven Center, getting ready for an ice cream social and a magic show. She fretted about her distant cousin by marriage, Agnes Malhiet, 87, a fellow resident, who had broken a hip a few nights before and needed surgery.

Geriatric experts say they will be trying to learn from evacuations like the one from Wynhoven and resettlements like the one to Haven to avoid the often tragic events that unfolded at other nursing homes when the levees broke and the floodwaters surged.

"There is no good solution," said Catherine Hawes, a professor of health policy and gerontology at Texas A&M University. "But we need to know what went well and what didn't." Experts agree that unlike many nursing home evacuations after the storm, the one at the Haven Center went as well as could have been expected. Yet decades of research on transfer trauma suggest that many of the residents will deteriorate and a few are likely to die prematurely because of their ordeal.

"I would expect a lot of premature mortality" even in the best of circumstances, Dr. Hawes said. "Their experience is unimaginable."

Dr. Hawes and her colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are seeking funds to study the long-term effects on Katrina's nursing-home evacuees. She said that in the past nursing home patients had died on non-air-conditioned buses during evacuations, and that patients seemed to fare the best if they were evacuated along with others they knew, including longstanding roommates and familiar aides.

Mrs. Malhiet, despite her injury, said she was only grateful, for the new clothing and for the nurse she had known for years at Wynhoven, who stayed with her at a hospital 30 miles from Columbia in Monroe, La., when she needed surgery.

"She kept saying, 'I'll be O.K. by myself,' " said the nurse, Danilyn Childers, who left her own extended family in the flood zone to be with her patients here. "But I know she was glad I was there, even when I woke us both up snoring."

KaraLe Causey, the director of the Haven Center, did not let financial concerns slow the evacuation of the Wynhoven residents. At one point, she booked and paid $2,000 for tour buses in Columbia and sent them south. When the van accompanying the buses and carrying equipment broke down on the highway, she came up with $600 for its repair. The Haven Center is part of a movement, known as the Pioneer Network, to redesign nursing homes in a less institutional way. An all-points bulletin for assistance on behalf of the center and a few other nearby nursing homes went out to health care providers, consultants and others in the network.

First on the scene was Sister Imelda Maurer from San Francisco, a gerontologist. She listened to those who wanted to tell their stories, prayed with those who didn't and took pictures to e-mail to relatives who were unable to check on them in person. Next to arrive was Willie Novotney, director of the Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community in Manhattan, Kan. He brought truckloads of supplies and several of his employees.

Sister Imelda and Mr. Novotney stayed for nearly two weeks to coordinate donations, including shipments of beds from Kearney, Neb., and walkers from New York City. Other nuns and administrators from around the country took their turns in shifts.

Then there were the local volunteers. The ambulance company greeted the exhausted evacuees when their buses pulled in and helped carry them inside on slings of bedsheets. An emergency room doctor, learning that Haven's regular doctor was on vacation, helped sort medication demands. Members of the high school football team cleaned out the long-closed wing and furnished a barren lounge with a piano, a television, a sofa and a set of Reader's Digest condensed books. An electrician repaired call lights that hadn't been used for years and installed air conditioners.

Members of a local Baptist church cleaned carpets and drove to distant medical supply companies to buy more medication carts. The 80 residents already living at the home, despite a bit of grousing about who sat where in the dining room, made goodie bags for their new neighbors with snacks and puzzle books. Local residents donated pocket money so that each resident could make small purchases - sodas from the vending machine, for instance. The most significant divide is religion; the evacuees are devout Roman Catholics in a largely Baptist environment. Accustomed to daily Mass, they make do for now with weekly services.

Mrs. Causey, who has three versions of the New Testament on her iPod, has added bingo to the activity schedule, but does not let them play for money.

A Roman Catholic couple, Royal and Helen Baudoin, followed the caravan of buses to stay near Mrs. Baudoin's mother, who has Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Boarding with a Baptist minister, they attended his service, mostly to be polite, but were surprised by what Mr. Baudoin described as a born-again moment. "I had this feeling come over me of happiness and joy," he said. Sister Imelda overheard his story and took it in stride. "I guess we've lost two more," she said with a chuckle.

The evacuated residents said they felt a special kinship with the aides and nurses who stayed with them and shared their suffering in the shelter, dressing and bathing them with a measure of privacy by holding sheets between men and women mixed on the gymnasium floor.

Vina Annicet, a nursing aide whose home escaped the flood but was looted and burned, plans to resettle in Columbia. "The peace and quiet and the people are wonderful," she said. "It's everything I need to grow old." She has already been hired by Mrs. Causey.

Mrs. Causey is already planning - and worrying about - the return of the Wynhoven residents to Marrero once electricity and running water are restored there. The last time the home evacuated for a hurricane, only for a few days, one woman died of a heart attack during the reverse migration. Some residents are already dreading another bus trip.

Mrs. Causey hopes there is a better solution. "Another bulk transfer will put them in harm's way," she said. "It's inhumane. I'm not trying to keep them. We just need to pay special attention to how they go home."

    Aging, Frail, and Now Refugees From a Devastating Hurricane, NYT, 18.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/nationalspecial/18frail.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans opens

to business despite warnings

 

Sat Sep 17, 2005 10:08 PM ET
Reuters
By Matt Daily

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The head of federal recovery efforts warned on Saturday it was too soon for many to come home to New Orleans as the city's business districts struggled to find a pulse in wreckage of Hurricane Katrina.

Signs of life flickered in the commercial center and historic French Quarter of the famed party city as merchants inspected their abandoned shops and restaurants, while in areas harder hit by the killer storm rescue workers were said to be finding more bodies.

Local officials allowed business owners back for the first time since Katrina struck on August 29 as they sought to restore commerce and put the Big Easy on the road to recovery.

One well-known French Quarter eatery, Alex Patout's Louisiana Kitchen, placed tables covered with white tablecloths out front and started serving the state's signature dish -- red beans and rice.

"Just wait 'til we get the Mardi Gras music going," said restaurant worker Annie Lewis. In a hopeful sign, electricity was restored to part of the Quarter on Saturday.

The opening for business was part of a phased restarting of the city announced earlier by Mayor Ray Nagin, who said residents of the least-affected areas could begin coming back on Monday.

Some have questioned Nagin's plan because schools, some hospitals and almost all businesses remain closed nearly three weeks after Katrina, and the city -- now mostly empty but usually home to half a million people -- is without basic services in many areas.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, in charge of federal relief operations in the storm region, warned on Saturday that New Orleans was not ready for its people to come back.

"As the city of New Orleans begins its re-entry program this morning, there are continued concerns that the damaged electricity, water, sewage and safety systems are not restored to a level that can meet the basic needs of the businesses and residents who return," Allen said in a statement.

"I urge all residents returning to use extreme caution if they return and to consider delaying their return until safer and more livable conditions are established," he said.

 

STILL UNDER WATER

Floodwaters still cover 40 percent of the historic city, but were dropping quickly as pumps shot water back into Lake Pontchartrain.

The receding waters allowed search and rescue teams their first look into many homes that had been submerged for nearly three weeks and were said to reveal a growing Katrina death toll.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported the teams were turning up large numbers of bodies in districts such as the 9th Ward, Gentilly and the Desire-Florida, which quickly filled with up to 12 feet of water after Katrina broke a nearby levee.

"Parts of the city have become a target-rich environment for human remains," said Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue squad liaison Charles Hood. "It's becoming a very difficult task."

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue spokesman Louie Fernandez said he had not heard of a dramatic increase in the number of dead.

As of Friday, Katrina's death toll stood at 816, with 579 of those in Louisiana, 218 in Mississippi and a total of 19 in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Louisiana officials said they would not update their numbers until Sunday.

While the chore of collecting the dead went on, returning merchants assessed the damage to their businesses in the neighborhoods that fared better in Katrina.

In the central business district, Tony and Sharon Schembre were surprised to find their family's 88-year-old brass polishing and plating shop in good shape. They vowed to reopen soon.

"We're coming back. I figured if there was too much damage we would not, but we'll definitely be back," Tony Schembre said.

French Quarter perfume shop owner Amy Wendell predicted the famed heart of the city would bounce back quickly.

"It's not going to take long for the Quarter. We are the backbone of New Orleans," she said.

The Quarter, known for its rowdy night life and quaint buildings, suffered little flooding because, unlike most of the city, it sits above sea level.

Katrina forced a million people from their homes, hundreds of thousands of whom are now in refugee shelters or temporary housing across the United States.

The biggest concentration was in Houston, where 27,000 evacuees once filled the Astrodome complex. On Friday, the last of those in the sports stadium had been moved elsewhere.

In Saturday's Democratic national radio address, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco thanked America for taking in the displaced.

"As long as the Mississippi River flows into the gulf, we will never forget your generosity," she said.

"We will bring our people home as soon as we can."

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox and Kieran Murray in New Orleans and Ben Berkowitz in Baton Rouge)

    New Orleans opens to business despite warnings, R, 17.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-18T020801Z_01_DIT553296_RTRUKOC_0_US-KATRINA-WRAP.xml

 

 

 

 

 

Bush underscores

pledge on Katrina rebuilding

 

Sat Sep 17, 2005 10:07 AM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Saturday underscored his goal of a massive rebuilding effort to make storm-battered Gulf Coast communities "better and stronger," brushing aside growing Republican worries about the impact on the budget deficit.

"Out of this tragedy comes an opportunity to harness the good and gracious spirit of America, and deliver new hope to neighborhoods that were suffering before the storm," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Bush has said the federal government will assume the bulk of the costs for what he says will be "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." He said on Friday he would not raise taxes to pay for it.

Bush, who is intent on shoring up confidence in his handling of Katrina's aftermath after a slow initial federal response, has said he believes the budget can handle the costs and that he would look for ways to cut unnecessary spending.

"I have made a pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will help our citizens rebuild their communities and their lives," he said.

The effort will involve repairing public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools and water systems in the area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and offering incentives for businesses to New Orleans and other cities.

He did not give a price tag for the long-term recovery, which some in Congress think could exceed $200 billion.

Fiscal conservatives in both houses of Congress are fretting about the budget deficit, which hit a record $412 billion last year but is forecast to ease to $333 billion this year. Spending in the hundreds of billions could easily send the deficit to new heights.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn has threatened to hold up future emergency spending bills if offsetting budget cuts are not found.

    Bush underscores pledge on Katrina rebuilding, R, 17.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-17T140801Z_01_MCC750815_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-BUSH-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans business owners return,

waters drop

 

Sat Sep 17, 2005 11:00 AM ET
Reuters
By Matt Daily

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans business owners headed back home on Saturday to help in the mammoth task of rebuilding the city as recovery teams moved across battered neighborhoods to collect the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Flood waters are dropping quickly in the worst-hit areas as pumps shoot water back into Lake Pontchartrain, allowing search and rescue teams their first look into many homes that had been submerged in fetid water for nearly three weeks.

"There was a significant amount of water in this neighborhood yesterday," said a Missouri-based rescue team leader as his team moved up one street, house by house.

"We're here to make sure there are no people who sheltered in place, or any deceased bodies. And if there are we'll take care of them," he said.

Other teams moved by boat into sections of the city still under water.

Business owners began to return to the French Quarter of clubs and bars, the central business district and the Uptown and Algiers residential areas.

Those neighborhoods fared far better than most of the city, and electricity was slowly being restored.

Mayor Ray Nagin called on businesses to come back this weekend and wants residents of the four areas to join a staggered return over the next nine days.

But it was uncertain how many of the city's 450,000 residents could or would actually return.

Schools, some hospitals and almost all businesses remain closed and many will not be open again for months. The water is not safe to drink and, with huge swaths of the city devastated, it could take years for a full recovery.

The official death toll from Katrina rose to 816 on Friday, with about 70 percent of the fatalities in Louisiana.

 

"WHATEVER IT COSTS"

President George W. Bush, stung by criticism that his government reacted too slowly to the disaster, has vowed to rebuild New Orleans and all the other Gulf Coast cities and towns ravaged by the August 29 hurricane.

"It's going to cost whatever it costs," he said on Friday.

That could be more than $200 billion, and some Republicans in Washington fear it could inflate an already large budget deficit. The government has so far allotted $62.3 billion in emergency funds since Katrina displaced a million people.

The military presence in New Orleans -- already at high levels following the lawlessness and chaos in the days after the storm - increased further as National Guard troops added new roadblocks on city streets, limiting the movement of the few residents who had remained.

Two buses carrying members of the Oregon National Guard patrolled near the receding flood waters in the northern part of New Orleans, looking for any residents or looters that may have made their way into the city.

"Mostly they are going back in to check out their homes. They came to see what it looks like, grab stuff and go," said Staff Sgt. Aaron Cochran.

Despite the muck and stench across much of New Orleans, federal officials said the risk of disease to returning residents was not significant.

"So far there are no big issues long-term," said Jerry Fenner, a public health analyst with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The water is clearly contaminated with raw sewage because many sewage pumping stations are not working. But if people do not drink or soak in the water, there are few concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

There are also a few heavy metals in the water but not at dangerous levels, the EPA said.

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox and Kieran Murray in New Orleans and Ben Berkowitz in Baton Rouge)

    New Orleans business owners return, waters drop, R, 17.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-17T150114Z_01_DIT553296_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Mythbuster doctor

chases down Katrina rumors

 

Sat Sep 17, 2005
11:09 AM ET
Reuters
By Maggie Fox, Health

and Science Correspondent

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The most outrageous rumor was the report about two dogs poisoned by the toxic floodwaters that filled many New Orleans neighborhoods.

At the start of the flooding, as the waters of already less-than-pristine Lake Pontchartrain poured through collapsed levees into low-lying areas, health experts and environmentalists feared the flood would break open chemical tanks, barrels of oil, and solvents.

They worried that sitting floodwaters could dissolve the contents of buried hazardous waste sites or leach foul compounds from landfills.

And as residents and rescuers waded through foul brown waters, the reports of dire consequences began.

"Everybody 'knew' that two dogs went in the water and dropped dead instantly," said Dr. Tom Clark, an infectious disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Clark spends much of his day chasing down and either proving or disproving similar reports.

"It is incredible how people don't have access to any news here but the rumors get around," Clark said in an interview at CDC's makeshift headquarters in an abandoned hospital in New Orleans' Uptown district.

A government veterinarian sought hard to find the dogs' bodies, or even someone who had actually witnessed the alleged incident, but could not.

It is very unlikely the incident happened. "But it had rescuers concerned about going in the water," Clark said.

The Environmental Protection Agency and CDC have cautioned that the floodwater and tapwater are contaminated with sewage and some chemicals, and that people should avoid drinking it or getting it on them. The sludge that lingers is also contaminated.

 

CHASING CHOLERA

But if it is washed off the skin, it is unlikely to cause long-term harm. And once the sludge dries, it is unlikely to be dangerous -- although the EPA plans to continue watching and testing it to be sure.

"There are several things that have been blown out of proportion or become bigger than what they really are," Clark said.

Clark had to chase media reports of cholera cases in flooded sections of Mississippi and Louisiana. The reports were a misinterpretation of the name of the bacteria causing another infection -- Vibrio vulnificus.

Some strains of a related bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, cause cholera. But a few reports made a big jump. "When there are cases of Vibrio infection, that becomes cholera," Clark said.

Clark and colleagues had to track down each and every one to ensure it was not a true case of cholera.

One case was reported in Tennessee of Vibrio cholerae -- but it was a strain that does not cause the profuse, watery diarrhea that marks cholera.

Although these other Vibrio can kill, they are not transmitted from person to person and do not cause epidemics.

Nonetheless, Clark is checking the reports.

"The potential is there for transmissible outbreaks and we want to be able to respond to these as quickly as possible, but also to have up-to-date information," Clark said.

"We do that with data."

"There have been no waterborne outbreaks of hepatitis A in this country since 1980," he said. There has never been an outbreak of hepatitis after a hurricane.

Medical teams are offering local residents vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus and diphtheria, because there are safe vaccines against these diseases and they are circulating.

But Clark said people must also understand that after they vaccinated they are not then immune against all disease.

"You still have to be careful with food and careful with water and wash your hands," he said.

    Mythbuster doctor chases down Katrina rumors, R, 17.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-17T151004Z_01_MCC754543_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-MYTHBUSTER-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

FEMA, Slow to the Rescue,

Now Stumbles in Aid Effort

 

September 17, 2005
The New York Times
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and ERIC LIPTON

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept 16 - Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Katrina cut its devastating path, FEMA - the same federal agency that botched the rescue mission - is faltering in its effort to aid hundreds of thousands of storm victims, local officials, evacuees and top federal relief officials say. The federal aid hot line mentioned by President Bush in his address to the nation on Thursday cannot handle the flood of calls, leaving thousands of people unable to get through for help, day after day.

Federal officials are often unable to give local governments permission to proceed with fundamental tasks to get their towns running again. Most areas in the region still lack federal help centers, the one-stop shopping sites for residents in need of aid for their homes or families. Officials say that they are uncertain whether they can meet the president's goal of providing housing for 100,000 people who are now in shelters by the middle of next month.

While the agency has redoubled its efforts to get food, money and temporary shelter to the storm victims, serious problems remain throughout the affected region. Visits to several towns in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as interviews with dozens of local and federal officials, provide a portrait of a fragmented and dysfunctional system.

The top two federal relief officials in charge of the effort both acknowledged in interviews late this week that they too have listened to the frustrated voices of local officials and citizens alike, and find their complaints valid.

"It is not happening fast enough, effective enough and it is not impacting the people at the bottom as quickly as it should," said Vice Adm. Thad Allen, standing along the waterfront in New Orleans on Friday. "I have heard frustrations."

Admiral Allen, who was put in charge of the federal government's emergency operations along the Gulf Coast a week ago Friday, said entrenched bureaucracies hampered attempts to accelerate his top priorities: aid to residents, providing housing and clearing the vast swaths of wreckage from homes and trees damaged by the storm.

Working from Baton Rouge, William Lokey, FEMA's coordinating officer for the three-state region, echoed Admiral Allen's criticisms. "It is not going as fast as I would like, and yes, I do not have the resources I would like," he said on Thursday. "I am going as fast as I can to get them."

The problems clearly stem largely from the sheer enormousness of the disaster. But the lack of investment in emergency preparedness, poor coordination across a sprawling federal bureaucracy and a massive failure of local communication systems - all of which hurt the initial rescue efforts - are now also impeding the recovery.

FEMA, Mr. Lokey said, is an agency with limited federal money that must quickly expand its operational capacity only after a major disaster strikes. It has not won a large chunk of the new federal homeland security dollars, that have been dedicated to terrorism.

"If the billions of dollars that have been spent on chemical, nuclear and biological response, if some of that had come over here, we would have done better," he said. "But after 9/11, the public priority was terrorism."

The Katrina troubles underscore serious questions about the federal government's ability to handle similar disasters in the future.

"I don't think federal bureaucracy can handle the next disaster," said Toye Taylor, the president of Washington Parish, one of the hardest hit areas in Louisiana, who met with Mr. Bush this week.

"I expressed to the president that it would take a new partnership between the military and private sector," Mr. Taylor said. "Because there will be another one and I don't think the federal government is going to be able to help." Indeed, Mr. Bush said in his address to the nation from New Orleans on Thursday night that the military would play a new role in federal disaster relief.

The struggle to return parishes, towns and individual lives to some semblance of working order is visible throughout the region.

The president of St. Tammany Parish, Kevin Davis, is praying that it does not rain in his sweltering corner of Louisiana, because three weeks after the storm severely damaged his drainage system, FEMA has yet to give him approval to even start the repairs.

Up north in the poor parish of Washington, residents are sleeping in houses that were chopped in half by oak trees. The promised wave of government inspectors have not shown up to assist them.

James McGehee, the mayor of Bogalusa, a small Louisiana city near the Mississippi border, could barely contain his rage in an interview on Thursday.

"Today is 18 days past the storm, and FEMA has not even put a location for people who are displaced," he said. "They are walking around the damn streets. The system's broke."

Some critical aspects of the federal response to the storm are moving significantly faster than expected. The Army Corps of Engineers, which initially predicted that pumping out New Orleans would take up to three months, now predicts that the enormous task will be wrapped up by Oct. 2.

FEMA and its partners have delivered as of Friday morning more than 177 million tons of ice, 63 million liters of water and 26 million ready-to-eat meals throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

More than $1.25 billion of federal disaster aid has also been distributed directly to many of the just over one million victims in the three-state region that registered for aid. Just in Louisiana, another $100 million in disaster food stamp benefits have been distributed.

"The commitment is an aggressive one," said Ann Silverberg Williamson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services, which is working with federal officials on several of these efforts.

In many affected areas, Americans continue to live in conditions unthinkable in most of the industrialized world, like the rural unincorporated areas in Washington and surrounding parishes, where the uprooted trunks of 20-ton trees have left dinosaur foot-size crevices in roads, and homes are still surrounded by a maze of twisting branches.

In Tangipahoa Parish, the parish president, Gordon Burgess, said he called FEMA officials daily to ask when they would arrive to assist residents with housing. Mr. Burgess said the federal workers say, " 'I'll get to you next week,' and then the next week and then you'd never hear from them again."

Indeed, almost every local leader interviewed - even those sympathetic to FEMA's plight - complained that they could not get FEMA to approve their contracts with workers, tell them when they would be opening help centers or answer basic questions. Often, they say, the FEMA worker on the ground, eager to help, has to go up the chain of command before taking action, which can take days.

"People on the ground are wonderful but the problem is getting the 'yes,' " said Mr. Davis of St Tammany parish, who has a contractor ready to clean his drainage system of the same trees FEMA allowed him to take off his streets, and to repair parts of the sewage system.

"I'm saying, 'Wait a minute, you pick up debris on the road but not the drainage?' If it rains, I've got real problems. I just need someone to tell me make the public bids and I could rebuild our parish in no time."

Perhaps the greatest frustration expressed by state and local officials - as well as by some federal officials - is the pace of finding or setting up temporary housing to move people out of emergency shelters and the slow opening of specialized recovery centers.

The Bush administration had set Oct. 1 as the deadline for moving those 100,000 people in shelters out of these often overcrowded and uncomfortable facilities and into temporary homes. The goal is to install tens of thousands of mobile homes and trailers, so people are not only out of the shelters, but they can move back closer to their homes. But progress on the installation of these new homes is off to a slow start.

"That is not going to happen," Mr. Lokey said Thursday afternoon of the Oct. 1 goal. "It is just too big." By Thursday night, in his speech to the nation, Mr. Bush had revised the deadline to Oct. 15, which Mr. Lokey said would still be hard to meet.

Tempers are already flaring among many of the thousands of people displaced by the storm who have had a hard time getting through to FEMA on the telephone or finding centers where FEMA representatives can answer questions about various federal assistance programs. Only 8 of 40 promised sites have opened in Louisiana.

"I still do not have a firm date as to when they will put a site," said Mr. Taylor of Washington parish. Baton Rouge, which has received a huge influx of evacuees, did not get such a center until this Thursday. Evacuees and local officials also complain that FEMA's request for them to register on line or via phone is unrealistic, given that as of Wednesday 310,000 households in Louisiana were still without telephone service and 283,231 were still awaiting power, or nearly 30 percent of the state's households. And the phone lines are almost always jammed anyway. As such, those with cars drive miles to operating help centers in other counties, where the lines are sprawling. Confusion is rampant.

"FEMA don't communicate with you very well," said Tommy Nelson, as he cleaned out the home of his girlfriend's mother in Waveland, a Gulf Coast town now more of a memory than a place. "You got to learn things second-hand. We just happened to be in a post office line and we just happened to learn you got to register down here for a trailer. I was talking to a FEMA representative about trailers yesterday and she didn't have a clue." The best way to reach FEMA is about 2 a.m., various evacuees said.

Meanwhile, truck drivers carrying tens of thousands of tons of ice and driving water have been sent on a cross-country tour, from city to city, only then to be told to wait for up to a week in a parking lot in Memphis, with their engines, as well as their tabs as drivers running.

"It is a sad experience," said Frank Link,, who was sent from to Missouri, then to Mississippi, then to Alabama and then to Tennessee - all with the same load of 41,580 pounds of ice that he had loaded in Chicago. "I went down there to help. All I did was get the runaround from FEMA."

But the disaster has also exposed several serious flaws that hampered FEMA's response. Communication systems, especially in rural areas, were crippled and have still failed to return, making it impossible for residents as well as local officials to reach the federal government.

Further, many of the residents affected had few resources and limited power to begin with. Isolation proved to be a liability. Those who had leaders with access to television cameras and a little political influence have begun to make out better than those without.

Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, assailed the federal government on national television the first days after the storm. Today he boasts that FEMA has moved "at lightning speed" to get his parish housing, paychecks for workers, and carries in his tote bag a personal letter from the president.

Admiral Allen, whose jurisdiction spreads across the Gulf Coast region, said he recognized that he had a brief window in which to turn things around for the hundreds of thousands of affected residents. "There should be a low tolerance for a learning curve on my part," Admiral Allen said. "It is not weeks. It is days. And if it is not days, it is hours."

    FEMA, Slow to the Rescue, Now Stumbles in Aid Effort, NYT, 17.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/17/national/nationalspecial/17fema.html?hp&ex=1126929600&en=3d1b3e2be5958146&ei=5094&partner=homepage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Bush

speaking Friday at one of many ceremonies for the victims of Hurricane Katrina        NYT        16.9.2005

 

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

 

Bush Rules Out Raising Taxes for Gulf Relief        NYT        17.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/17/national/nationalspecial/17bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Rules Out

Raising Taxes for Gulf Relief

 

September 17, 2005
The New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER
and EDMUND L. ANDREWS

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 - President Bush said Friday that rebuilding the Gulf Coast would "cost whatever it costs," that he would not raise taxes to pay for the recovery and that at least some of the expense would have to be offset by budget cuts in other programs.

His call for some sacrifices in the federal budget came just a day after he addressed the nation in prime time from an outdoor lectern in New Orleans, where he promised to rebuild the city and the surrounding Gulf Coast, heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bush used a national day of remembrance for the storm victims on Friday to expand on the themes of racial injustice that he touched upon the night before, telling a packed service at the National Cathedral, "As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality."

Taken together with his speech in Jackson Square on Thursday night, Mr. Bush's comments were part of an effort to shift the focus to promises of rebuilding and recovery and away from criticism that the White House had been callous in its slowness in helping the storm victims, many of them black.

The White House on Friday also offered a few more details about the president's proposals to provide incentives for rebuilding and to assist displaced residents with homesteading land and money for job retraining. The Gulf Opportunity Zone program he outlined on Thursday would offer special tax breaks to businesses and would cost about $2 billion; school vouchers, worth up to about $7,000 for displaced students, could be used for private as well as public schools. Administration officials are also considering a suspension of the steep import tariffs now imposed on cement from Mexico, lumber from Canada and numerous forms of steel.

Again on Friday, Mr. Bush put no price tag on the rebuilding, although others have said the federal government will quickly run through the $62.3 billion already approved in relief aid by Congress, and could wind up spending as much as $200 billion.

At a news conference in the East Room with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Bush offered no suggestions about what kind of cuts might be made or whether he would revisit the $24 billion in pet projects for members of Congress that were in the $286.4 billion transportation bill he recently signed into law.

But he explicitly ruled out tax increases to pay for the reconstruction and relief costs, saying, "We got to maintain economic growth." He continues to press for a permanent extension of his tax cuts, which would cost $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

Mr. Bush defended the additional tax breaks that he was recommending for businesses in the Gulf of Mexico region, saying they would not be expensive. "Look, there's not going to be any revenues coming out of that area for a while anyway, so we might as well give them good tax relief in order to get jobs there and investment there," he said.

The escalating bills for the damage wrought by the hurricane have begun worrying members of Congress, with a growing number of Republicans distancing themselves from what they view as unchecked spending by the White House. Congress is poised to make $35 billion in spending cuts over the next five years, some in Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

Even before the hurricane struck, budget analysts on Capitol Hill were bracing for rising deficits as a result of financial burdens including the war in Iraq and the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. On Friday, Congressional deficit hawks said they were pleased by the president's call for efforts to compensate for the burgeoning cost of the storm recovery, though they would have preferred that he had included it in his New Orleans speech.

"I think there are plenty of places to go to work, starting with Congressional earmarks," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, referring to pet projects lawmakers place in bills like the transportation measure, which included a $250 million bridge to a small Alaskan island that has 50 residents.

Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, said the Republican Study Committee, a group of House conservatives, planned to unveil a series of potential cuts next week. Lawmakers have suggested delaying the start of the new Medicare drug program and eliminating programs that the White House, in its budget earlier this year, called expendable.

Claude Allen, assistant to the president for domestic policy, said aides had not focused on specific spending cutbacks. "I cannot name any programs that will be cut," he said. And Al Hubbard, director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters that the government would have to borrow money to pay for the costs of the storm.

"Well, there's no question about it: the recovery will be paid for by the federal taxpayer, and it will add to the deficit," Mr. Hubbard said.

Brian M. Riedl, a longtime budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said Mr. Bush needed to lead the efforts for budget cuts.

"Thus far, President Bush has not vetoed a single bill and has allowed Congress to spend too much money," he said.

Mr. Riedl has published a new budget forecast that projects soaring deficits as a result of the hurricane, the war in Iraq and the Medicare drug program. All in all, he said, the budget deficit is likely to hit $520 billion in 2008, up from about $400 billion this year.

Democrats were quick to criticize the president's fight to extend his tax cuts, which Congress has postponed considering for at least the next month. Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, pointed to the long-term effects of those extensions.

"The president should acknowledge the consequences of what he's talking about," Mr. Spratt said, adding that the combined cost of Mr. Bush's tax proposals - including a possible repeal of the alternative minimum tax - could hit $2 trillion over 10 years. "This will clearly preclude cutting the deficit in half over the next five years."

Some of the president's new proposals still have no cost estimates. His plan for "urban homesteads" would provide surplus federal property to displaced families for almost nothing in exchange for a commitment to build or renovate any buildings on the property as homes. White House officials said the Department of Housing and Urban Development had about 4,000 houses or apartments on which it has foreclosed, with about 1,000 of those in or near New Orleans.

As for the Gulf Opportunity Zone, companies would be allowed to immediately write off 50 percent of their investment in any new equipment. Small businesses would be able to write off the cost of all new equipment, up to $100,000. Supporters of low-tax zones say they attract employers to areas that are most in need of jobs. But critics say they often just attract companies that were already planning to invest nearby, pulling jobs from one neighborhood to another without increasing overall employment.

In an effort to bridge the divide along race and economic lines that was exposed in the storm's aftermath, Mr. Bush has promised that minority-owned businesses will benefit from the enterprise zone.

The themes of race and poverty were made evident by several speakers at the prayer service at the National Cathedral early in the day. T. D. Jakes, a conservative black minister of a large Dallas church, the Potter's House, told those in attendance - including some evacuees from New Orleans - that Katrina "has made us look and think and dare to discuss the unmentionable." At several moments he seemed to look right at Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was sitting behind the president and has spoken frequently in recent days about the poverty revealed by the hurricane, which also struck her native Alabama.

Mr. Bush acknowledged those facts when he said in his brief comments at the service, "This poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity." He said it was his challenge to "deliver new hope to communities that were suffering before the storm."

"As we rebuild homes and businesses, we will renew our promise as a land of equality and decency," he said. "And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but in character and justice."

Carl Hulse contributed reporting for this article.

    Bush Rules Out Raising Taxes for Gulf Relief, NYT, 17.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/17/national/nationalspecial/17bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Bush and Laura Bush

attended one of the many ceremonies Friday for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

NYT        16.9.2005        Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Bush Rules Out Raising Taxes for Gulf Relief        NYT        17.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/17/national/nationalspecial/17bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Out of Katrina's Wake,

Victims Find Aid in Harlem

 

September 17, 2005
The New York Times

By NINA BERNSTEIN

 

Using a model developed to help bereaved families after 9/11, New York has turned one floor of an old Harlem welfare office into a welcoming center where several hundred Katrina storm survivors are finding one-stop disaster assistance.

The center, which opened at noon Thursday, had handled more than 300 people from 100 families by Friday evening, city officials said, describing them as people who had made their way on their own from the storm-devastated Gulf region to join friends and family in New York. State rules for identification were waived so that no one would be denied public aid for lack of documents lost in the flood.

"We wanted to make these people feel welcome," said Bob McHugh, a spokesman for the city's Human Resources Administration. He said employees worked around the clock to remodel the space for the city's Office of Emergency Management, which is in charge of the overall operation. "These people are traumatized, and New York's going to be there for them."

On Friday night, the two dozen people at the center were almost overwhelmed by the city and state officials who were there to offer help. There was a day care area where children could play with toys on a newly-tiled floor, banks of telephones, computers and cubicles for privacy.

Besides such basics as food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance, the families found offers of counseling from the Office of Mental Health, help accessing bank records from the State of New York Department of Banking, representatives from the Social Security Administration, and Red Cross workers handing out debit cards and hotel assignments.

"I'm tired, hungry; I'm ready to settle down," said Sheila Clifton, 39, who was holding a donated teddy bear and seeking a place to sleep for her family - sons Nicholas, 15, and Brandon, 17, and her granddaughter, Akyra Nettles, 5. "Everything's in one place, and I like it like that."

Nicholas said they had walked out of their house in New Orleans' Carrollton section in waist-high water two days after the storm, gathering what belongings they could, including important documents. With rides from friends and strangers, they made their way to Texarkana, Tex., and finally, after learning from an online bulletin board that Ms. Clifton's brother in New York was looking for her, they flew to New York with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA. Ms. Clifton had not seen her brother in seven years, Nicholas said.

Ms. Clifton, who said that before the flood she worked at the Place d'Armes Hotel in the French Quarter and was a student at Southern University, soon had a hotel room provided by the Red Cross, and had signed up for other benefits.

Initially, New York State prepared for many more than the 750 or so people who have shown up in county social services offices since the hurricane, said Joseph F. Bruno, the city's emergency management commissioner. Until Monday, officials at FEMA, had planned to send planeloads of Katrina evacuees to the state, and the city and six counties had volunteered to take them in - including Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Erie, Onondaga and Monroe.

Camp Smith near Bear Mountain had been selected as a staging area for up to 1,500 at a time and the state had agreed to accept as many as 5,000. Then the state, city and county officials who had mobilized for the event were told mass transports were off. Apparently too many evacuees resisted a secondary migration so far from home, Robert Doar, commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, said yesterday.

Meanwhile, however, the state relaxed the rules for obtaining public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance. "If someone presents themselves as a victim of Katrina and doesn't have a driver's license or ID, those document requirements should be waived," Mr. Doar said yesterday.

"The situation in New Orleans was unprecedented. We wanted to respond in a way that showed the heart of New York, and we have."

At the same time, he added, counties were told, "Don't completely forget about the fact that there are unfortunate people in your cities and towns who will attempt to abuse this."

At the center, which will be open seven days a week - 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday - most of those seeking help Friday night had documentation, officials said.

Before reaching the center at 530 W. 135th Street, near Broadway, many had stopped at a welcome center set up nearby in the Great Hall of City University of New York, where weary families were issued photo ID's, screened by health care workers, and collected free MetroCards, diapers, comfort kits and cots.

Officials said they expected about 50 families a day. Mr. Bruno suggested that most would eventually return home to rebuild their city. But some seemed ready to put down roots.

Ollie Stewart, who worked at a home for abused children in New Orleans and lived in the Garden District, said his mother wound up in Tennessee and his sister in Georgia. But he likes what he has seen since Sept. 2, when he moved in with his 37-year-old brother, Darryl Bloodsaw. After picking up a Red Cross debit card worth $360 for 14 days, he said he was planning to stay in New York.

"They're taking care of me here," he said, "showing me mad love."

Peter Beller contributed reporting for this article.

    Out of Katrina's Wake, Victims Find Aid in Harlem, NYT, 17.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/17/nyregion/17evac.html

 

 

 

 

 

Conflicting accounts from top

on Katrina response

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 1:00 PM ET
Reuters
By Adam Entous

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Under fire over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the White House and Homeland Security Department have offered conflicting accounts of who was in charge and when the administration first triggered what it promised would be a massive, organized federal response.

U.S. Senate investigators are looking closely at these inconsistencies and what some critics say was general confusion within the administration about what a newly created National Response Plan entailed.

Homeland Security Michael Chertoff waited nearly 36 hours after the August 29 storm hit to designate then-FEMA Director Michael Brown as the "principal federal official" to coordinate the federal response, according to a memo Chertoff sent to fellow Cabinet members on August 30.

In the same memo, Chertoff declared Katrina the first-ever "incident of national significance" -- an announcement touted the next day by the White House as key to setting in motion a carefully choreographed response and recovery effort.

But according to government documents, congressional aides and Homeland Security officials, what first triggered the "incident of national significance" was not Chertoff's memo, but a little-noticed statement issued by the White House on the night of August 27 while President George W. Bush was still vacationing at his Crawford, Texas ranch.

"That was the trigger," said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke.

But instead of designating Brown to as the "principal federal official" under the National Response Plan, Bush on August 27 named a lower-level official -- William Lokey -- as federal coordinating officer to lead recovery operations in Louisiana.

Bush has since acknowledged that Katrina exposed serious deficiencies at all levels of government, despite the administration's much-touted National Response Plan, which was completed in December 2004 and spelled out how agencies were to respond to major natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

 

NEW TARGET?

At first it was Brown who took the brunt of the criticism for the federal response to Katrina and he resigned under pressure on Monday.

But some congressional aides involved in the investigation are now questioning why Chertoff waited until August 30 to designate Brown as the "principal federal official" and to declare the storm an "incident of national significance."

Knocke said it was the White House -- not Chertoff -- that initiated the response plan when, on August 27, Bush in a statement "declared an emergency exists in the state of Louisiana" and authorized the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts" under the so-called Stafford Act.

According to the National Response Plan, "all presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered incidents of national significance."

But it is unclear why Chertoff did not immediately designate Brown as the "principal federal official" with oversight over Lokey and other federal and state officials.

Once he declared an emergency on August 27, Bush was required under the Stafford Act to immediately appoint a "federal coordinating officer" like Lokey.

But under the National Response Plan, Chertoff could hold off. "Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, a principal federal official may not always be designated, in which case the federal coordinating officer will provide the federal lead," the plan says.

Knocke said Chertoff did not hold off designating Brown as the "principal federal official" because he doubted the severity of the storm. Chertoff was working from home on August 27 and kept in touch with officials by phone, he said.

Knocke said Brown already "was in fact the lead federal official in the field before and after (Chertoff's) declaration. ... Everyone knew their roles and responsibilities."

    Conflicting accounts from top on Katrina response, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T165845Z_01_YUE573515_RTRUKOT_0_TEXT0.xml&related=true

 

 

 

 

New Orleans bars get ready to open

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 7:22 PM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray and Maggie Fox

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans' French Quarter cleaned up its bars and clubs on Friday to get ready for business as President George W. Bush promised to restore the hurricane-ravaged coastal region without raising taxes or shattering budgets.

Experts said the environmental impact of the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina was not as bad as initially feared. While much of the city was covered in a layer of stinking sludge, there were not high levels of toxic contamination.

Speaking in Washington, Bush said, "It's going to cost whatever it costs. The key question is to make sure the costs are wisely spent and that we work with Congress to make sure that we are able to manage our budget in a wise way, and that is going to mean cutting other programs."

Hurricane Katrina recovery costs have been estimated at more than $200 billion. Some conservative Republicans in Washington are worried about the bill at a time when there is already a hefty budget deficit.

The White House and Congress already have authorized $62.3 billion in emergency funds in the days since the August 29 storm displaced a million people.

Louisiana needs at least $2.27 billion to fix bridges and roads alone, the state Department of Transportation and Development said on Friday.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin asked business owners to return to the French Quarter and three other areas this weekend, and said about 182,000 residents, or nearly 40 percent of the city's 450,000 population, will be allowed back over the next 10 days.

Pump after pump dumped smelly, brown water from the lower levels of buildings into once-flooded streets as electric and gas crews roved streets checking damage and repairing cables.

The city's water is contaminated with raw sewage, but the Environmental Protection Agency said the amount of heavy metals, oil and chemicals in the water was not dangerous.

"People feared there would be toxic pits," Jerry Fenner, a public health analyst with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview. "The data we have seen so far doesn't support it."

 

DOWN NOT OUT

More people trickled back into the city on Friday. On one street leading into the central business district, someone sold portable generators loaded on a flatbed truck. They were gone within hours.

Ruined neighborhoods are still under water and many evacuees scattered in temporary shelters around the country are searching for family members; but some areas that escaped the worst damage are steadily showing more signs of life.

"We have a statement to make. Maybe we were down, but we're not out," said Julio Menjivar, the general manager of three clubs on Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter.

He hoped to have a skeleton crew in place by Monday with electricity back on within a week. After that, all the bawdy, rowdy area needs is tourists, the lifeblood of New Orleans' economy.

"People really come to kick back a little. They come here to let loose," he said. "Bourbon Street will bounce back."

Prayer services for the storm victims took place across the country on Friday. At the National Cathedral in Washington, Bush promised not to forget the poor black communities hard hit by the storm. Homes in some poverty-stricken areas of New Orleans may have to be demolished.

"As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality," Bush said.

Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who toured the region on Friday, said the storm had exposed "the many Americans who are left out and left behind. ... We must rebuild it for everyone to be a more just and fair land."

Some business owners predicted boom times ahead.

"It'll be better than ever," said Jason Mohney, the owner of four strip clubs on Bourbon Street. "A lot of federal money will be coming in here. Big-time developers will come too."

Not everyone was so sure.

A Washington Post poll of evacuees staying in emergency shelters in the Houston area showed nearly half of them did not want to return to New Orleans.

Lakeisha Catchings, a 24-year-old mother of three who escaped her New Orleans home in a boat, said it meant nothing to her that people were returning to the city.

"My house isn't underwater. It's gone," she said in Houston. "I'm not going back.

U.S. consumer confidence sank to a 13-year low in early September, battered by Katrina and record gas prices, a closely watched University of Michigan report showed on Friday.

 

CONFIDENCE DOWN

Although economists said the steep fall in confidence was a temporary reaction to the shock of Katrina, others said it could reflect a loss of confidence in the government following the botched rescue efforts in the first days after the storm. Bush's public approval ratings are at a low.

More than two weeks later, many across the disaster zone are still incensed by the slow response, first when Katrina struck and now as they try to rebuild. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has received sharp criticism.

"We have had no help from them for our citizens. ... It is criminal," said Ben Morris, mayor of the devastated town of Slidell, outside New Orleans, where at least 10,000 people lost their homes.

Rescue teams are still scouring wrecked New Orleans neighborhoods to check homes for the living and the dead.

The official death toll climbed to 816, with about 70 percent of them in Louisiana. Decaying corpses are still on New Orleans' streets and the death toll is expected to rise as flood waters recede.

Recovery was still far off in coastal Mississippi where 100,000 houses were destroyed or severely damaged. Officials were planning to let survivors search for belongings a bit longer before beginning bulldozing to clear lots.

In Jefferson Parish, south and west of New Orleans, all 500,000 residents will be allowed back to their homes by Wednesday. Electricity will be restored to about 20 percent of the New Orleans area within two weeks, utility officials said.

(Additional reporting by Matt Daily in New Orleans, Mark Babineck in Houston, Ben Berkowitz in Baton Rouge and Ros Krasny in Chicago)

    New Orleans bars get ready to open, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T232125Z_01_DIT553296_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Half trapped in homes

wait days for Katrina rescue

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:29 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Half of Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were trapped in their houses by flood waters waited three or more days to be rescued, according to a survey of storm victims released on Friday.

Thirty-eight percent of the people who stayed behind despite orders to evacuate said they were either physically unable to leave or were caring for a disabled person.

The survey of storm victims relocated to Houston was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post.

Findings were based on interviews of 680 randomly selected adults staying at Houston's Astrodome or other area shelters.

Nearly all of the people surveyed were from the New Orleans area. Thirty-nine percent said they did not receive any help from government agencies or volunteer organizations during the flooding and evacuation.

More than half -- 55 percent -- said their homes were destroyed.

Ninety-two percent said religion "played an important role in helping them get through the past two weeks."

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

    Half trapped in homes wait days for Katrina rescue, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T192810Z_01_DIT670116_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-SURVEY-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Reopening of New Orleans

means little to evacuees

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 7:07 PM ET
Reuters
By Mark Babineck

 

HOUSTON (Reuters) - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was excited to announce the imminent reopening of some of the city's most picturesque areas but many of his displaced constituents did not share his enthusiasm.

"That's no news, that's nothing at all," said Lakeisha Catchings, a 24-year-old mother of three now living in Houston's downtown convention center. "My house isn't underwater. It's gone."

Catchings had to escape her Uptown-area home in New Orleans in a boat but residents and business owners in her old ZIP code can begin returning next week, Nagin said on Thursday.

Those areas include Algiers, the French Quarter, the Central Business District and the Uptown section, which were largely untouched by flooding and include most of the city's priciest real estate and are home to more than one-fourth of its population.

The rest live in areas harder hit by flooding and might be several weeks or months away from recovery.

"It's a good day in New Orleans," Nagin said on Thursday. "The sun is shining. We're bringing New Orleans back."

Yet life was no different on Friday for Michael Nixon, a 40-year-old roofer who remained at Houston's convention center with his wife, Roi, and 2-year-old son, Royal.

While his family evacuated ahead of Katrina, he stayed behind and spent a week atop his home in the Lower 9th Ward until rescuers came.

Based on his experience watching houses stew in the polluted floodwaters, along with his knowledge of construction, Nixon believes vast sections of the city will disappear.

"I was up there. All those chemicals were just eating up stuff, it was affecting so much," he said.

Nixon expects years of steady work ahead as New Orleans launches what could be the biggest reconstruction project in U.S. history. While he's fixing or building others' homes, though, he fears he'll be separated from his wife and son.

"Where will my family live?" he asked.

Nagin's invitation resonated with some, including 82-year-old Edna Robinson. Transportation is the wheelchair-bound woman's primary obstacle.

"I heard it was dry," she said. "I'm hopeful of getting back."

But Catchings, anger rising in her voice, is not hopeful and has decided Houston is her family's new home.

"I'm not going back," she said, accusing officials at all levels of failing to protect the vulnerable city. "They did it to us one time, they'll do it to us again."

    Reopening of New Orleans means little to evacuees, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T230649Z_01_SPI683131_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-EVACUEES-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina deals blow to consumer sentiment

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:48 AM ET
Reuters
By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment this month plunged to its lowest in over a decade as the fallout from Hurricane Katrina made Americans nervous that the economy may slow down, a report said on Friday.

The University of Michigan said its reading on confidence dropped sharply to 76.9 so far this month from 89.1 in August, according to sources who saw the subscription-only report.

That was lower than the reading after the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities, but comparable to that seen following Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Expectations about the future, as measured by the survey, also took a serious hit, swooning to a 13-year low.

"These are abysmal numbers, suggesting a deeply pessimistic consumer in the first half of September," said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial.

The expectations component retreated to 63.6 from 76.9, while the one for current conditions dived to 97.7 from 108.2.

Consumer spending accounts for some two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, so changes in sentiment are monitored for signs of future retail trends.

However, the correlation between confidence and sales has weakened in recent years, with consumers telling surveys things are getting worse while they continue to buy cars and homes.

That might explain why financial markets had a seemingly counterintuitive reaction to the numbers. Stocks rose about a half percentage point on brokerage upgrades of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Intel Corp.

Nonetheless, the report did stoke worries that the U.S. economy might be on the verge of tougher times.

Even before Katrina's devastation, economists feared that the economy might not be able to withstand headwinds from high energy prices and a potentially overvalued housing market.

The storm prompted many forecasters to downgrade growth predictions for the second half of the year.

Many on Wall Street see Katrina delivering a sharp blow to the economy but believe substantial government spending and reconstruction efforts should boost growth in 2006.

A Reuters survey of 23 economists this week found estimates of gross domestic product growth in the third and fourth quarter have been cut to 3.6 percent and 3.1 percent respectively from 4.3 percent and 3.4 percent before Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast at the end of August.

    Katrina deals blow to consumer sentiment, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2005-09-16T144743Z_01_MOR650689_RTRIDST_0_BUSINESS-ECONOMY-CONSUMERS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

French Quarter races to reopen

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 8:30 AM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans' famed French Quarter is racing to open its bars and clubs, spurred by President George W. Bush's promise to rebuild a city where rescuers are still picking up the dead of Hurricane Katrina.

Even as ruined neighborhoods lay under water and many evacuees scattered in temporary shelters around the country tried to find missing family members, areas that largely escaped the storm's damage showed new signs of life.

Mayor Ray Nagin called on business owners to return to the French Quarter and three other areas this weekend, and said about 182,000 residents, or 40 percent of the city's population, would be allowed back over the next 10 days.

Some were already working again, trying to get a head start on the city's recovery.

"It'll be better than ever," said Jason Mohney, the owner of four strip clubs on Bourbon Street, the bawdy and tacky haven for tourists in the heart of the French Quarter.

"A lot of federal money will be coming in here. Big-time developers will come, too," he said late on Thursday as he and a team or workers cleaned up at one of the clubs, hoping to open as early as the weekend.

Bush pledged massive federal aid to rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf Coast towns and cities ravaged by Katrina when it tore in from the Gulf of Mexico almost three weeks ago.

"There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again," Bush said in a televised prime-time speech from the French Quarter's historic Jackson Square on Thursday night.

Reeling from record-low public approval ratings following botched rescue efforts, he conceded the response to Katrina was poorly coordinated and that all levels of government were overwhelmed by the destruction.

"Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency," Bush said.

 

SLOW RESPONSE TO CHAOS

It took days for emergency teams to reach cramped and violent shelters or hospitals where dozens of patients died after power cuts knocked out life-support equipment and air conditioners.

"We were a universe unto ourselves for several days," said Valerie Englade, a spokeswoman for East Jefferson General Hospital in New Orleans. "We had no assistance."

More than two weeks later, many across the disaster zone are still incensed by the government's slow response first when Katrina struck and now as they try to rebuild.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has received the sharpest criticism.

"We have had no help from them for our citizens. ... It is criminal," said Ben Morris, mayor of the devastated town of Slidell outside New Orleans.

"What we are dealing with is a human tragedy, people have nowhere to go," he said. "At FEMA, they keep saying they are coming, but they don't. I think they're useless"

Army engineers are pumping out the waters that poured in from Lake Pontchartrain when New Orleans' levees broke during the hurricane, and rescue teams are scouring wrecked neighborhoods to check homes for the living and the dead.

The official death toll from Katrina rose to 795 on Thursday, with 558 of them in Louisiana, 218 in Mississippi and 19 more from across Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

The number is expected to rise as flood waters recede. Decaying corpses can still be seen on New Orleans' streets a full 18 days after Katrina hit.

Bush said federal funds will cover most of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, including roads, bridges, schools and water systems.

He will ask Congress for its backing to provide building sites to low-income residents so they can return home, and give evacuees up to $5,000 to use for job training, education and help with child care expenses.

But he stopped short of offering a dollar commitment for the recovery effort. Congress has already approved $62.3 billion in emergency funding and some members of Congress say the bill could reach $200 billion -- the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

The political battle over Katrina raged on with Democrats dismissing Bush's speech in New Orleans.

"Leadership isn't a speech or a toll-free number. Leadership is getting the job done," said Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who lost the presidential race to Bush last year. "No American doubts that New Orleans will rise again. They doubt the competence and commitment of this administration."

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox)

    French Quarter races to reopen, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T122959Z_01_DIT553296_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 19, 2005        Vol. 166 No. 12

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,1101050919,00.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US does not deserve Katrina aid:

Iran cleric

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:28 AM ET
Reuters

 

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The United States does not deserve foreign aid in the wake of hurricane Katrina given the amount of money it spends on military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Iranian cleric said on Friday.

"Those who spent millions of dollars to kill the people of Afghanistan and Iraq are now asking the people of the world to assist them in providing relief for their storm-hit people," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at Friday prayers.

"Why aren't they ashamed of themselves?" he asked in the sermon broadcast live from Tehran University on state radio.

"Why do you spend your people's money, which is supposed to be spent for their own benefit, on your presence in Iraq and confronting the Iraqi people and the government they have chosen, killing people every day?"

Washington broke ties with Iran in 1980 and dubbed it an "axis of evil" member in 2002. Nevertheless, Tehran offered to send humanitarian assistance to the victims of Katrina via the Red Crescent soon after the hurricane hit.

Despite its deep hatred of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Iran opposed the U.S.-led war to topple him and continually calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from its western neighbor.

U.S. officials accuse Iran of stirring up unrest in Iraq by allowing weapons and fighters across its borders.

Iran denies the charge and leading religious figures in the Islamic state have in turn accused Washington of inciting violence in Iraq in order to prolong the presence of its troops.

"The Iraqi government intends to authorize a constitution to restore peace and build the future, but they (the U.S.) generate unrest to show that the government is weak and unable to establish security," Jannati said.

The cleric, who heads Iran's powerful Guardian Council -- an unelected watchdog which has the power to veto legislation deemed un-Islamic and election candidates it considers unfit for office -- said Washington was stoking violence between Iraq's majority Shi'ite and minority Sunni Muslim populations.

    US does not deserve Katrina aid: Iran cleric, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T132758Z_01_DIT648496_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-IRAN-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Guardian        G2        p. 25        16.9.2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evacuees Find

Comfort and Encouragement

in Speech

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times

By SUSAN SAULNY

 

HOUMA, La., Sept. 15 - Evacuees at a shelter here said they took comfort Thursday night from both the substance and the symbolism of the speech President Bush gave in the city many of them had fled.

When Mr. Bush talked about breaking the cycle of poverty and increasing the rate of home ownership on the Gulf Coast, one evacuee shouted, "Thank you! Thank you!" Others at the shelter, at the civic center in Houma, a small city southwest of New Orleans, nodded in approval at several points during the speech.

"I feel very encouraged because he's accepted responsibility, and in doing that, I feel that he has stepped up to the plate," said Evelyn Green, 58, a retired health care worker from the New Orleans area. "He touched me. I know now he's going to be there to help us rebuild our cities and towns. I take him at his word. I want to see everything he said tonight fulfilled."

Another evacuee, Muhammad Abdullah Ali, a 52-year-old security officer from New Orleans, said: "I feel that now he's going to take control and do the best he can. I felt good about the speech. It was a good speech. Now I want to see some action."

Others said they appreciated Mr. Bush's specific references to New Orleans culture and were glad to see the president speaking from Jackson Square, a familiar and comforting image from home.

The president's comments were greeted with praise from local officials, including Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat.

"Louisiana's people are strong, optimistic and determined to rebuild this great region," Ms. Blanco said, "but we cannot do it without the resources of our nation and our government. I take the president at his word when he says those resources will be there when we need them."

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, described Mr. Bush's proposals as "innovative and bold" and said: "The president picked a very inspiring spot to make this speech. The image is worth many words in terms of what Jackson Square and the cathedral mean to New Orleans and what New Orleans means to the nation."

But the Rev. Jesse Jackson said that even the president's nod to poverty and race issues would have to be matched by actions.

"I thought there was a sense of urgency," Mr. Jackson said about the speech. "I think he backed into the war on poverty, and touched on the issues of race and poverty and class obliquely, which is new for him."

 

Eric Lipton contributed reporting from Houma, La., for this article,

and Anne E. Kornblut from Washington.

    Evacuees Find Comfort and Encouragement in Speech, NYT, 16.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/national/nationalspecial/16react.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R.J. Matson        NY, The New York Observer and Roll Call        Cagle        15.9.2005

http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/matson.asp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amid the Ruins,

a President Tries

to Reconstruct His Image, Too

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - George W. Bush, whose standing for the last four years has rested primarily on issues of war and peace, introduced himself to the nation on Thursday night in an unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable new role: domestic president.

The violence of Hurricane Katrina and his faltering response to it have left to Mr. Bush the task not just of physically rebuilding a swath of the United States, but also of addressing issues like poverty and racial inequality that were exposed in such raw form by the storm.

The challenge would be immense for any president, but is especially so for Mr. Bush. He is scrambling to assure a shaken, angry nation not only that is he up to the task but also that he understands how much it disturbed Americans to see their fellow citizens suffering and their government responding so ineffectually.

So for nearly 30 minutes, he stood in a largely lifeless New Orleans and, to recast his presidency in response to one of the nation's most devastating disasters, sought to show that he understands the suffering. He spoke of housing and health care and job training. He reached with rhetorical confidence for the uplifting theme that out of tragedy can emerge a better society, and he groped for what he lost in the wind and water more than two weeks ago: his well-cultivated image as a strong leader.

It was not the president's most stirring speech, but it conveyed a sense of command far more than his off-key efforts in the days immediately after the storm, when he often seemed more interested in bucking up government officials than in addressing the dire situation confronting hundreds of thousands of displaced and desperate people.

But if the speech helped him clear his first hurdle by projecting the aura of a president at the controls, it probably did not, by itself, get him over a second: his need to erase or at least blur the image of a White House that was unresponsive to the plight of some of the country's most vulnerable citizens and failed to manage the government competently.

Whether he can put a floor under his falling poll numbers, restore his political authority and move ahead with his agenda will determine not just the course of his second term but the strength of his party, which by virtue of having controlled both the White House and the Congress for more than five years has trouble credibly pinning the blame elsewhere.

"He was giving a speech as if the nation were disheartened and worried and had lost its spirit, but that's not what people were thinking," said Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. "They were thinking, why did the government screw up?"

To those storm victims in need of immediate help and to those who face the continued upheaval of their lives for weeks or months or longer, he offered an expansive government safety net of specific programs, from paying the costs of reuniting families to a commitment to moving everyone out of shelters into housing by mid-October. Doing so marked a distinct shift for a president whose perceived hostility or indifference to government's role in social welfare programs - manifested in budgets that have sought to cut such programs or curtail them - has long been a flash point in his relationship with poor and minority voters.

But if this was big government, it was at least in part on Mr. Bush's ideological terms: federal reimbursement to allow displaced students to attend private and parochial schools, tax-free business zones, a call for charitable and religious groups to continue with relief work. Having no choice but to open the fiscal floodgates, he sought to reassure nervous conservatives that he would guard against fraud and waste.

When it came to the issues hardest to address and most in need of sustained commitment, new ideas and risk-taking leadership - the gap between rich and poor, its causes and consequences, its racial components - he was less effective.

"We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action," he said.

Yet he spoke of "deep, persistent poverty" as something the nation had seen on television rather than as a condition that many citizens had been living in for generations. He defined the problem as regional rather than national in scope, and offered only regional rather than national solutions.

"The reconstruction, massive as it is, is really the easy part," said Bruce Reed, president of the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of centrist Democrats. "Rebuilding confidence, especially among the poor and vulnerable, is going to be extraordinarily difficult."

In dealing with the more concrete aspects of the job ahead, Mr. Bush slipped comfortably into the language that he has used as commander in chief to comfort and exhort the nation as it has waged war, hailing those Americans who have "served and sacrificed" and vowing that the government "will stay as long as it takes" to get the job done, an echo, almost word for word, of his formulation for how long the United States will remain in Iraq.

The president forthrightly linked the failures in response to the storm to a vulnerability to a terrorist attack and said he wanted to know "all the facts" about what had gone wrong.

Mr. Bush called for unity in tackling the problems. But with only a camera before him, and New Orleans silent around him, he could draw no strength or self-assurance from the cheers of a united nation, as he did when he addressed a joint session of Congress nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Not only did his own stagecraft leave him alone in the spotlight, but whatever good will flowed to him across the aisle in those moments after the terrorist attacks is long gone, a victim of a polarized political culture that he did not create but to which he has often contributed.

For Mr. Bush, this was a moment for the country to turn away from what he and his aides have dismissively labeled "the blame game" toward a hopeful vision of a rebuilt Gulf Coast and a smarter government. But it is not yet clear that his performance will stanch the political wounds he has suffered or ensure that he can avoid being hobbled through his second term, not just by what he lost in the faltering response to Hurricane Katrina but by the rising death toll in Iraq, sky-high energy prices and worrisome deficits.

    Amid the Ruins, a President Tries to Reconstruct His Image, Too, NYT, 16.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/politics/16assess.html

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Pledges

Federal Role in Rebuilding Gulf Coast

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times

By ELISABETH BUMILLER and DAVID E. SANGER

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 15 - President Bush called Thursday night for the rebuilding of the devastated Gulf Coast through the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, a government enterprise that he said would provide help on taxes, housing, education and job training for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen," Mr. Bush said in remarks in Jackson Square against the brightly lighted backdrop of St. Louis Cathedral, a symbol of the heart and soul of New Orleans for almost three centuries.

Mr. Bush delivered his speech, carried live by the major television networks, in the middle of the city's darkened French Quarter, where Army troops from the 82nd Airborne Division were on patrol. The White House, well practiced in the art of presidential stagecraft, provided its own generators for the lighting and communications equipment that beamed his remarks to the nation.

"And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives," Mr. Bush said.

He said that the Gulf Opportunity Zone, encompassing Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, would provide tax incentives and loans for small businesses that create jobs, including, he pointed out, minority-owned enterprises. Mr. Bush also said the federal government would provide evacuees with accounts of up to $5,000 that they could use for job training and education.

In addition, he asked Congress to pass what he called the Urban Homesteading Act, which would provide building sites on federal land through a lottery to low-income citizens, free of charge. In return, he said, residents would pledge to build on the lots, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

Mr. Bush spoke after he was driven through empty, pitch-black streets, where members of the 82nd Airborne stood on corners saluting the motorcade. The city's mayor announced that citizens could return starting this weekend. [Page A18.]

"I am speaking to you from the city of New Orleans, nearly empty, still partly under water and waiting for life and hope to return," Mr. Bush said from a lectern set up in the grass and hidden behind camouflage netting in Jackson Square. "Eastward from Lake Pontchartrain, across the Mississippi coast, to Alabama and into Florida, millions of lives were changed in a day by a cruel and wasteful storm."

In the aftermath, he said, "we have seen fellow citizens left stunned and uprooted searching for loved ones, and grieving for the dead and looking for meaning in a tragedy that seems so blind and random."

For the first time, Mr. Bush alluded to the suffering of the largely poor, black evacuees at the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center: "We have also witnessed the kind of desperation no citizen of this great and generous nation should ever have to know - fellow Americans calling out for food and water vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy and the bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street."

He invoked the memories of victims left behind in New Orleans, and said that Americans deserved the right to a more effective response in an emergency in this post-Sept. 11 world. He also acknowledged shortfalls in the government's response and said he had ordered every member of his cabinet to participate in a comprehensive review of the government's hurricane response.

"We're going to review every action," he said, "and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature or act of evil men that could threaten our people."

Mr. Bush also tackled the tough issues of race and poverty that have been the source of enormous criticism and caused even Republicans to question the administration's commitment.

"As all of us saw on television," he said, "there is also some deep persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday and let us rise above the legacy of inequality."

Mr. Bush did not offer cost estimates for his proposals, but they were drawn from the kind of experiments - with "opportunity zones" and tax incentives - that Republicans have greatly preferred to huge federal spending efforts. The president seemed to try to balance a comprehensive government plan with an assurance that Washington would back away and allow Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama - and the city of New Orleans - to decide how to rebuild.

"That is our vision of the future, in this city and beyond. We will not just rebuild, we will build higher and better," he said.

Aside from the opportunity zone, Mr. Bush also proposed Worker Recovery Accounts' of up to $5,000 that evacuees could use for job training and education. The proposal sounds much like the kinds of accounts set up after the passage of the North America Free Trade Act in the early 1990's to help retrain workers displaced by foreign competition, a program that met with mixed reviews.

But in his speech, delivered in shirtsleeves, Mr. Bush also left some of the most controversial ideas unmentioned. His words seemed to imply that New Orleans neighborhoods would be rebuilt on the same sites that were flooded, rather than letting that land return to its ancient state, as wetlands that could provide a relief valve in the case of a future flood.

Many of the most vulnerable neighborhoods were largely occupied by the city's poorest, and relocating those neighborhoods opened issues that one White House official said today "are not for us to deal with."

At moments, when discussing the roots of the poverty made evident by the hurricane, Mr. Bush seemed to draw on some of the language of the civil rights movement. "Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive," he said. "Not just to cope, but to overcome."

He added: "And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again."

The federal government, Mr. Bush said, will undertake a "close partnership" with Mississippi and Louisiana, with New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities so they can rebuild in a "sensible, well-planned way." He said the federal government would cover the majority of the costs of rebuilding the infrastructure in the disaster zone, like roads, bridges, schools and water systems.

The president said that he expected the work to be done quickly, and that taxpayers would expect it to be performed "honestly and wisely." He promised to have a team of inspectors reviewing all expenditures.

Mr. Bush put no price tag on the efforts of the federal government, in large part, Republicans said, because of the political pressure within his own party to hold down spending. But many Republicans predicted that the costs could run as high or higher than the war in Iraq, up to $200 billion, and noted that the White House has said that $51.8 billion in emergency federal money just approved by Congress, on top of an earlier $10 billion, will last for just a few weeks.

Mr. Bush did not name a lead rebuilding official in the speech, as some White House officials are urging, and Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, did not rule out the naming of such an official at a later date. Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Jack Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric, are names frequently mentioned by Republicans as possibilities for the position.

White House officials viewed the speech as the culmination of a pivotal week in which Mr. Bush tried to turn around his image as a chief executive slow to respond to one of the greatest natural disasters in American history. The speech was meant to portray Mr. Bush as a forceful leader in control of the crisis and sympathetic to the people in the region.

"Tonight, so many victims of the hurricane and flood are far from home and friends and familiar things," Mr. Bush said. "You need to know that our whole nation cares about you, and in the journey ahead you are not alone. To all who carry a burden, I extend our deepest sympathy of our country."

Mr. Bush began his trip with a visit to a Chevron oil refinery in Pascagoula, Miss., the home of Senator Trent Lott, the former Republican majority leader, whose home was destroyed in the storm. Mr. Bush was ridiculed by his critics two weeks ago when he expressed sympathy for Mr. Lott's loss on the same day that the president avoided the center of New Orleans and made no public mention of the thousands of largely poor, black evacuees desperate or dying for food and water in the Superdome.

Mr. Bush said nothing about Mr. Lott's house in Pascagoula on Thursday, and instead used the trip to meet with local officials, including Mr. Lott, at the refinery. The facility, which makes gasoline, has not been operating since the hurricane, but managers there have been importing gas, diesel and jet fuel from as far away as Europe and shipping it via truck and pipeline to the eastern United States.

Mr. Bush arrived in New Orleans close to 7 p.m. Eastern time after a 45-minute helicopter ride aboard Marine One from Pascagoula. He landed in the fading sunlight on the deck of the assault ship Iwo Jima, which was docked in the Port of New Orleans a short distance from the French Quarter. He was met by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco; Mayor C. Ray Nagin; Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen; Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary; and Gen. Russel L. Honoré.

 

Elisabeth Bumiller reported from New Orleans for this article, and David E. Sanger from Washington.

    Bush Pledges Federal Role in Rebuilding Gulf Coast, NYT, 16.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/national/nationalspecial/16bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

FEMA can't pay off Katrina-hit muni bonds:

official

 

Fri Sep 16, 2005
5:00 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot help local governments hit by Hurricane Katrina with their municipal bond payments, a FEMA official said Friday.

"Our grant programs do not extend to operational costs or indebtedness," David Fukutomi, the FEMA official, told Reuters.

Instead, the federal agency under existing rules could only reimburse costs that affected governments incur fixing facilities damaged by the hurricane, he said.

Fukutomi, who is in charge of a program to support cities by reimbursing them for their emergency needs, said local governments were depleting emergency reserves to fix assets like sewer systems, which were likely financed by municipal debt.

"We're trying to replenish those cash reserves," he said. "We're trying to do that as quickly as possible."

He acknowledged that municipal default was a looming problem, given that many cities have lost their entire tax base, with little hope of recovery for months.

"We have to take a look at that," he said. "It seems some of the jurisdictions with financial problems may face that."

Local governments from Mississippi and Louisiana and their Congressional representatives have begun a push for the federal government to step in to stop bonds from their jurisdictions from defaulting.

Many local governments hit by the August 29 hurricane saw their tax base blown away with little indication when tax collections would resume.

    FEMA can't pay off Katrina-hit muni bonds: official, R, 16.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-16T210035Z_01_SPI675619_RTRUKOT_0_TEXT0.xml&related=true
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Brookes        September 16, 2005        The Times

The White House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans, silent,

fights to sing and play again

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005
11:06 AM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - In the Snug Harbor, a stage for some of the world's best jazz musicians, no one has sung a word or played a note for almost three weeks.

It's the same story over at Donna's and at Preservation Hall, uptown at Tipitina's, and at other legendary jazz and blues clubs all across New Orleans.

Battered, flooded and emptied by Hurricane Katrina, this city has lost the music it loves, silenced for possibly the first time in over 200 years.

"It's not easy. You miss it right away," says George Brumat, the Snug Harbor's owner and one of a band of holdouts who flatly refuse to leave the eerily quiet city.

"We've been playing music here every night for 25 years. Sometimes we'd close for a day or two when a storm came through. But nothing like this," he says, drinking from a bottle of water on a hot and humid night outside the club, the only light coming from a car parked nearby.

He now sleeps at the Snug Harbor and stays all day, keeping it clean until his musicians, customers and staff come back.

Veteran jazz vocalist Germaine Bazzle sang the last set here on a Saturday night in late August, a day before Katrina hammered this jewel of a city and turned into a ghost town.

No one knows for sure when its musicians will return.

Katrina killed hundreds of people and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee for safety. It so badly flooded many neighborhoods that they will have to be flattened.

But the French Quarter of bars and beautiful homes, as well as New Orleans' most elegant neighborhoods, stood on higher ground and escaped relatively unscathed.

That means the tourists will return, raising hopes that New Orleans' legendary music scene will also bounce back.

"I'm gonna press 'Play' as soon as the power comes back," says Ade Salgado, a wildly energetic Brazilian musician and another die-hard who rode out the storm and refuses to leave.

A wiry and charismatic 52-year-old who moved here 22 years ago, Salgado prowls around his own club, Cafe Brasil, one minute tidying the bar, the next hopping up onto the stage, the next painting the steps up to his apartment a bright red.

Unable to go for long without music, he jumps back into his car and pops on a CD of his latest project, "No Identity".

It sounds like a mix of jazz, dub and trip-hop although Salgado says his band is something else, a subversive force that improvises entire CDs in single sessions and then disappears, only to come back weeks later with a new sound.

"I'm just the bitch. I make it happen," he says with a flashing smile and a cackle of a laugh.

 

RICH HISTORY, PLENTY OF WORK

New Orleans attracts musicians the world over with its rich history and promise of steady work.

While claims that jazz was born in New Orleans are open to debate, it certainly grew up here and the city gave the world legends such as Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.

R&B and the blues found its own stars in New Orleans, led by Fats Domino, who tried to ride out Katrina and had to be rescued when his home was flooded. Other home-grown stars have included Dr. John and the Neville Brothers.

A melting pot of cultures, the city also has a strong tradition of brass bands, cajun and zydeco, and no social event is complete here without music.

The Mardi Gras carnival defines this city, trumpets, trombones, drums and tubas filling its streets. The dead are given a joyous send-off at dozens of jazz funerals every year.

"When the water is pumped out and the lights are back on, we're definitely going back," said Ellis Marsalis, the pianist and jazz patriarch of New Orleans' most powerful musical family.

But he said it was not clear how quickly music would be back at full strength, and that much depends on whether rebuilding plans respect musical traditions.

"Some cities, if you play on the street, they put you in jail. New Orleans is not one of them," Marsalis said in a telephone interview from North Carolina, where he took refuge after the storm.

He also said real-estate developers could change the city's make-up as they rebuild, comparing them to vultures picking at a fresh corpse.

Critics say developers and the tourism industry have already changed New Orleans, turning it into an expensive party town with the drunken and naked excesses of college students on Bourbon Street becoming its public face rather than the brilliant street parades of Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday."

Some fear that process could accelerate during rebuilding.

 

CULTURE DRAIN

Jason Marsalis, one of Ellis' sons and a renowned drummer, said the destruction of old neighborhoods, many of them poor and mainly black, might ultimately affect the music scene.

"Music in New Orleans is really about its people," he said. "A lot of older houses are going to have to be torn down. A lot of the culture could be drained out," he said in an interview from Dallas before flying to Brazil for a concert.

He expects New Orleans' most established musicians to return as soon as the lights come on, although he said younger talent could drift away to New York, Chicago and other cities.

Brumat also worries old neighborhoods could disappear and some talent could be lost, but he wonders whether the hundreds of thousands of people forced out by Katrina will settle happily in duller cities across the United States.

He thinks many will return, especially the musicians. "They are favored here. The good players, everyone knows who they are. And the great players, they rule."

He has left a simple sign outside Snug Harbor: "Fear Not, Brothers & Sisters. Jazz City Will Swing Again. Peace."

Joe Krown, longtime keyboardist for Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown -- who died on Saturday in Texas, says musicians who want to learn and play and become greats will always be drawn to New Orleans.

"There is just so much work. These guys start at age of 15 to 20 and they are working full time. The kids grow up watching this stuff and they just get so good. When there is that much music, there is a lot of creativity," he said from his temporary home in Baton Rouge.

"We're all going back. It's New Orleans. There is no place like it."

Ray Nagin, the city's mayor, is using music as a rallying cry as he tries to revive a city that is now home to more army troops, police and rescue workers than its own residents.

"I am tired of hearing these helicopters. I wanna hear some jazz," Nagin said this week. He hopes to start moving tens of thousands of people back into the city in coming days, and promises next year's Mardi Gras will be "awesome."

"We are gonna need Ash Wednesday because we're gonna let it ALL hang out on Fat Tuesday."

    New Orleans, silent, fights to sing and play again, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-15T150628Z_01_DIT554164_RTRUKOT_0_TEXT0.xml&related=true

 

 

 

 

 

When Katrina got tough,

nurses got inventive

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:12 AM ET
Reuters
By Maggie Fox,
Health and Science Correspondent

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The 3,000 people packed into East Jefferson General Hospital just outside New Orleans could not stay away from the windows, fascinated to see Hurricane Katrina blow over trees and batter buildings.

"By morning we saw the water rising. That was when we saw the nursing home across the street was still occupied," said Beverly Marino, a nurse in the hospital's emergency department.

Marino and her fellow emergency department staff have heard the horror stories of 34 frail patients left in a nursing home to drown, of looting and of murder in their hometown.

But their own tales are of heroism and inventiveness.

The distressed East Jefferson staff had to wait until the water stopped rising to wade through chest-deep water and get the elderly residents and their caretakers out of the one-story apartment-style building across the street from the emergency department ramp.

"They had one fan. They had a dog over there. They had the one fan on the dog," Marino said.

"We bathed them, changed them and got them on a bus," Marino added.

"One lady said 'I'm going on a bus, I'm going on a bus -- I have to get my good dress on.' They (the rescuers) were rooting around in her closet for the good dress."

Of 12 New Orleans area hospitals, three main suburban centers were not shut down by the August 29 hurricane.

Staff at East Jefferson, the West Jefferson Medical Center and the Ochsner Clinic have worked without a break since they were locked in by Katrina's furious winds and the fast floods that followed when the levees broke.

From the time Katrina blew out services on Monday, until power was restored on Thursday, they improvised.

Linda Strong, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at West Jefferson, said they used red plastic biohazard bags as toilets.

"We were so proud of our waste management. We didn't want to mess up the sewage system," Strong laughed.

Neonatal nurse Darlene Leonard said they poked holes in bags, filled them with water, and used them to shower.

"We made a clothesline in the circumcision room," said Kelli Arnold, another nurse in the intensive care unit for premature babies.

 

DISPLACED PARENTS

One baby went home on Wednesday -- Kirk Tassin, born to a pair of deputy sheriffs who lost their house in the storm yet had to keep working.

There are eight newborns left in West Jefferson's neonatal intensive care unit. Only one has a parent in town.

The rest were forced to evacuate, leaving the tiny infants in the care of the nurses. "We have some as far as Atlanta, Ft. Worth, Texas, Houston," nurse Doris Sinotte said.

"But the nurses have totally adopted them."

Many staff slept in the hospitals, finding spaces wherever they could, for two weeks straight.

Connie Revels, the West Jefferson emergency department coordinator, brought her three cats to work the day before the storm hit, and employees set up a kennel. "At one point people had 40 to 50 dogs and cats," Revels said.

The kennel is still there, filled with the pets of displaced hospital workers.

East Jefferson also set up a day-care center for the children of employees, which is still operating. "We are going to have child care here for months until all of those businesses are back and functioning," said Englade. "We are the community for our staff, because we have to be here. We have to be functioning."

    When Katrina got tough, nurses got inventive, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-15T151218Z_01_DIT554721_RTRUKOT_0_TEXT0.xml&related=true

 

 

 

 

 

More strong Katrina-like hurricanes reported

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005 2:15 PM ET
Reuters
By Deborah Zabarenko

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of strong hurricanes -- like the devastating Katrina -- significantly increased in the last 35 years, fueled by hotter seas that have been linked to global warming, researchers reported on Thursday.

Twice as many of the most powerful hurricanes, those ranked Category 4 or 5, have been detected since 1990 as were seen in the period from 1970 to 1985, scientists found in a global survey.

But the overall number of hurricanes has decreased during the last decade, the researchers wrote in a study published in the journal Science.

The rise in intense, destructive hurricanes worldwide goes along with a rise in sea surface temperatures, said Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"This trend in sea surface temperature that's sort of relentlessly rising and the hurricane intensity that's relentlessly rising (means that) it's with some confidence we can say that these two things are connected and that there's probably a substantial contribution from greenhouse warming," Curry said in a telephone news briefing.

Warm sea surfaces help fuel hurricanes, and the higher the temperature at the water's surface, the stronger the hurricane can become, Georgia Institute of Technology's Peter Webster explained.

Water vapor that evaporates from the sea's surface into the atmosphere eventually condenses as rain, releasing heat and driving a tropical cyclone -- the swirling pattern that can beget a hurricane.

 

FUEL FOR HURRICANES

The warmer the sea surface, the greater amount of potential evaporation and the greater the fuel for a possible hurricane, Webster said. And even small rises in sea surface temperature can cause rapid rises in evaporation.

The surface temperature in the Atlantic Ocean has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit (.5 degree Celsius) since 1970, the researchers said.

They noted, however, that only 12 percent of the world's hurricanes form in the Atlantic, so they looked at global data dating back to 1970. They discovered that the number and duration of hurricanes has remained generally stable, but the intensity has increased.

Because the results were similar across the globe, the scientists discounted natural variability as the cause.

These findings were in line with research published recently in the journal Nature, reporting that hurricanes have become more destructive over the last 30 years.

Hurricane Katrina was considered a Category 5 storm by the researchers, even though it had weakened to Category 4 when it came onshore on the U.S. Gulf coast, on Aug 29.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center has forecast an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season, with 9 to 11 hurricanes, including 7 to 9 major hurricanes, from July to November.

Category 5 is the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, meaning the storm has winds greater than 155 miles an hour.

The next-highest rating, Category 4, is a storm packing winds between 131 and 155 miles an hour.

To be classified as a hurricane, tropical storms must have winds above 74 miles an hour.

    More strong Katrina-like hurricanes reported, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2005-09-15T181401Z_01_DIT565637_RTRIDST_0_SCIENCE-KATRINA-HURRICANES-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

President Bush's Address

The following is the transcript
of President Bush's address to the nation,
as provided by CQ Transcriptions.

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times


Good evening. I am speaking to you from the city of New Orleans -- nearly empty, still partly under water, and waiting for life and hope to return.

Eastward from Lake Pontchartrain, across the Mississippi coast, to Alabama and into Florida, millions of lives were changed in a day by a cruel and wasteful storm.

In the aftermath, we have seen fellow citizens left stunned and uprooted, searching for loved ones and grieving for the dead, and looking for meaning in a tragedy that seems so blind and random.

We have also witnessed the kind of desperation no citizen of this great and generous nation should ever have to know: fellow Americans calling out for food and water, vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy, and the bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street.

These days of sorrow and outrage have also been marked by acts of courage and kindness that make all Americans proud.

Coast Guard and other personnel rescued tens of thousands of people from flooded neighborhoods. Religious congregations and families have welcomed strangers as brothers and sisters and neighbors.

In the community of Chalmette, when two men tried to break into a home, the owner invited them to stay -- and took in 15 other people who had no place to go.

At Tulane Hospital for Children, doctors and nurses did not eat for days so patients could have food, and eventually carried the patients on their backs up eight flights of stairs to helicopters.

Many first responders were victims themselves -- wounded healers, with a sense of duty greater than their own suffering. When I met Steve Scott of the Biloxi Fire Department, he and his colleagues were conducting a house-to-house search for survivors.

Steve told me this: I lost my house and I lost my cars, but I still got my family and I still got my spirit.

Across the Gulf Coast, among people who have lost much and suffered much and given to the limit of their power, we are seeing that same spirit: a core of strength that survives all hurt, a faith in God no storm can take away, and a powerful American determination to clear the ruins and build better than before.

Tonight so many victims of the hurricane and the flood are far from home and friends and familiar things. You need to know that our whole nation cares about you, and in the journey ahead you are not alone.

To all who carry a burden of loss, I extend the deepest sympathy of our country. To every person who has served and sacrificed in this emergency, I offer the gratitude of our country.

And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.

And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.

The work of rescue is largely finished; the work of recovery is moving forward. In nearly all of Mississippi, electric power has been restored. Trade is starting to return to the port of New Orleans, and agricultural shipments are moving down the Mississippi River.

All major gasoline pipelines are now in operation, preventing the supply disruptions that many feared. The breaks in the levees have been closed, the pumps are running, and the water here in New Orleans is receding by the hour.

Environmental officials are on the ground, taking water samples, identifying and dealing with hazardous debris, and working to get drinking water and waste water treatment systems operating again.

And some very sad duties are being carried out by professionals who gather the dead, treat them with respect, and prepare them for their rest.

In the task of recovery and rebuilding, some of the hardest work is still ahead. And it will require the creative skill and generosity of a united country.

Our first commitment is to meet the immediate needs of those who had to flee their homes and leave all their possessions behind. For these Americans, every night brings uncertainty, every day requires new courage and, in the months to come, will bring more than their fair share of struggles.

The Department of Homeland Security is registering evacuees who are now in shelters, churches or private homes -- whether in the Gulf region or far away.

I have signed an order providing immediate assistance to people from the disaster area. As of today, more than 500,000 evacuee families have gotten emergency help to pay for food, clothing and other essentials. Evacuees who have not yet registered should contact FEMA or the Red Cross. We need to know who you are, because many of you will be eligible for broader assistance in the future.

Many families were separated during the evacuation, and we are working to help you reunite. Please call this number: 1-877-568- 3317. That's 1-877-568-3317. And we will work to bring your family back together and pay for your travel to reach them.

In addition, we are taking steps to ensure that evacuees do not have to travel great distances or navigate bureaucracies to get the benefits that are there for them.

The Department of Health and Human Services has sent more than 1,500 health professionals, along with over 50 tons of medical supplies -- including vaccines, antibiotics and medicines for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

The Social Security Administration is delivering checks.

The Department of Labor is helping displaced persons apply for temporary jobs and unemployment benefits.

And the Postal Service is registering new addresses so that people can get their mail.

To carry out the first stages of the relief effort and begin rebuilding at once, I have asked for, and the Congress has provided, more than $60 billion. This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis, which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation.

Our second commitment is to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast to overcome this disaster, put their lives back together and rebuild their communities. Along this coast, for mile after mile, the wind and water swept the land clean. In Mississippi, many thousands of houses were damaged or destroyed. In New Orleans and surrounding parishes, more than a quarter-million houses are no longer safe to live in. Hundreds of thousands of people from across this region will need to find longer-term housing.

Our goal is to get people out of the shelters by the middle of October. So we are providing direct assistance to evacuees that allows them to rent apartments, and many are already moving into places of their own.

A number of states have taken in evacuees and shown them great compassion -- admitting children to school and providing health care. So I will work with the Congress to ensure that states are reimbursed for these extra expenses.

In the disaster area and in cities that have received huge numbers of displaced people, we are beginning to bring in mobile homes and trailers for temporary use.

To relieve the burden on local health-care facilities in the region, we are sending extra doctors and nurses to these areas.

We're also providing money that can be used to cover overtime pay for police and fire departments while the cities and towns rebuild.

Near New Orleans, Biloxi and other cities, housing is urgently needed for police and firefighters, other service providers and the many workers who are going to rebuild these cities.

Right now, many are sleeping on ships we have brought to the Port of New Orleans, and more ships are on their way to the region.

And we'll provide mobile homes and supply them with basic services, as close to construction areas as possible, so the rebuilding process can go forward as quickly as possible.

And the federal government will undertake a close partnership with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, the city of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities, so they can rebuild in a sensible, well- planned way.

Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems.

Our goal is to get the work done quickly. And taxpayers expect this work to be done honestly and wisely. So we will have a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures.

In the rebuilding process, there will be many important decisions and many details to resolve. Yet we are moving forward according to some clear principles.

The federal government will be fully engaged in the mission, but Governor Barbour, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future.

Clearly, communities will need to move decisively to change zoning laws and building codes, in order to avoid a repeat of what we have seen.

And in the work of rebuilding, as many jobs as possible should go to the men and women who live in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Our third commitment is this: When communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm.

Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well.

That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets.

When the houses are rebuilt, more families should own, not rent, those houses. When the regional economy revives, local people should be prepared for the jobs being created. Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome.

We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons -- because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love.

When one resident of this city who lost his home was asked by a reporter if he would relocate, he said, No, I will rebuild, but I will build higher.

That is our vision for the future in this city and beyond. We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better.

To meet this goal, I will listen to good ideas from Congress and state and local officials and the private sector. I believe we should start with three initiatives that the Congress should pass. Tonight, I propose the creation of a Gulf opportunity zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama.

Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment; tax relief for small businesses; incentives to companies that create jobs; and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again.

It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity. It is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty. And we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.

I propose the creation of worker recovery accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work. Under this plan, the federal government would provide accounts of up to $5,000, which these evacuees could draw upon for job training and education to help them get a good job and for child-care expenses during their job search.

And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act.

Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

Homeownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region.

In the long run, the New Orleans area has a particular challenge, because much of the city lies below sea level. The people who call it home need to have reassurance that their lives will be safer in the years to come. Protecting a city that sits lower than the water around it is not easy, but it can and has been done. City and parish officials in New Orleans and state officials in Louisiana will have a large part in the engineering decisions to come. And the Army Corps of Engineers will work at their side to make the flood-protection system stronger than it has ever been.

The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. When that job is done, all Americans will have something to be very proud of. And all Americans are needed in this common effort.

It is the armies of compassion -- charities and houses of worship and idealistic men and women -- that give our reconstruction effort its humanity. They offer to those who hurt a friendly face, an arm around the shoulder and the reassurance that, in hard times, they can count on someone who cares. By land, by sea and by air, good people wanting to make a difference deployed to the Gulf Coast. And they have been working around the clock ever since.

The cash needed to support the armies of compassion is great, and Americans have given generously.

For example, the private fundraising effort led by former Presidents Bush and Clinton has already received pledges of more than $100 million.

Some of that money is going to the governors, to be used for immediate needs within their states. A portion will also be sent to local houses of worship, to help reimburse them for the expense of helping others.

This evening, the need is still urgent, and I ask the American people to continue donating to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, other good charities and religious congregations in the region.

It is also essential for the many organizations of our country to reach out to your fellow citizens in the Gulf area. So I have asked USA Freedom Corps to create an information clearinghouse, available at usafreedomcorps.gov, so that families anywhere in the country can find opportunities to help families in the region or a school can support a school.

And I challenge existing organizations -- churches and Scout troops or labor union locals -- to get in touch with their counterparts in Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama and learn what they can do to help. In this great national enterprise, important work can be done by everyone, and everyone should find their role and do their part.

The government of this nation will do its part as well. Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters and disease outbreaks or a terrorist attack, for evacuating large numbers of people in an emergency, and for providing the food and water and security they would need.

In a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction, the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain. I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority. And therefore, I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review, in cooperation with local counterparts, of emergency plans in every major city in America. I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people.

The United States Congress also has an important oversight function to perform. Congress is preparing an investigation, and I will work with members of both parties to make sure this effort is thorough.

In the life of this nation, we have often been reminded that nature is an awesome force and that all life is fragile. We are the heirs of men and women who lived through those first terrible winters at Jamestown and Plymouth, who rebuilt Chicago after a great fire and San Francisco after a great earthquake, who reclaimed the prairie from the dust bowl of the 1930s. Every time, the people of this land have come back from fire, flood and storm to build anew and to build better than what we had before.

Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature, and we will not start now.

These trials have also reminded us that we are often stronger than we know -- with the help of grace and one another. They remind us of a hope beyond all pain and death -- a God who welcomes the lost to a house not made with hands. And they remind us that we are tied together in this life, in this nation, and that the despair of any touches us all.

I know that when you sit on the steps of a porch where a home once stood or sleep on a cot in a crowded shelter, it is hard to imagine a bright future. But that future will come.

The streets of Biloxi and Gulfport will again be filled with lovely homes and the sound of children playing. The churches of Alabama will have their broken steeples mended and their congregations whole. And here in New Orleans, the street cars will once again rumble down St. Charles and the passionate soul of a great city will return.

In this place, there is a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful second line, symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death.

Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge. Yet we will live to see the second line.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

    President Bush's Address, NYT, 16.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/national/nationalspecial/15text-bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

Amid the Ruins,

a President Trie

to Reconstruct His Image, Too

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times

By RICHARD W. STEVENSON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - George W. Bush, whose standing for the last four years has rested primarily on issues of war and peace, introduced himself to the nation on Thursday night in an unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable new role: domestic president.

The violence of Hurricane Katrina and his faltering response to it have left to Mr. Bush the task not just of physically rebuilding a swath of the United States, but also of addressing issues like poverty and racial inequality that were exposed in such raw form by the storm.

The challenge would be immense for any president, but is especially so for Mr. Bush. He is scrambling to assure a shaken, angry nation not only that is he up to the task but also that he understands how much it disturbed Americans to see their fellow citizens suffering and their government responding so ineffectually.

So for nearly 30 minutes, he stood in a largely lifeless New Orleans and, to recast his presidency in response to one of the nation's most devastating disasters, sought to show that he understands the suffering. He spoke of housing and health care and job training. He reached with rhetorical confidence for the uplifting theme that out of tragedy can emerge a better society, and he groped for what he lost in the wind and water more than two weeks ago: his well-cultivated image as a strong leader.

It was not the president's most stirring speech, but it conveyed a sense of command far more than his off-key efforts in the days immediately after the storm, when he often seemed more interested in bucking up government officials than in addressing the dire situation confronting hundreds of thousands of displaced and desperate people.

To those storm victims in need of immediate help and to those who face the continued upheaval of their lives for weeks or months or longer, he offered an expansive government safety net of specific programs, from paying the costs of reuniting families to a commitment to moving everyone out of shelters into housing by mid-October. Doing so marked a distinct shift for a president whose perceived hostility or indifference to government's role in social welfare programs - manifested in budgets that have sought to cut such programs or curtail them - has long been a flash point in his relationship with poor and minority voters.

But if this was big government, it was at least in part on Mr. Bush's ideological terms: federal reimbursement to allow displaced students to attend private and parochial schools, tax-free business zones, a call for charitable and religious groups to continue with relief work. Having no choice but to open the fiscal floodgates, he sought to reassure nervous conservatives that he would guard against fraud and waste.

When it came to the issues hardest to address and most in need of sustained commitment, new ideas and risk-taking leadership - the gap between rich and poor, its causes and consequences, its racial components - he was less effective.

"We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action," he said.

Yet he spoke of "deep, persistent poverty" as something the nation had seen on television rather than as a condition that many citizens had been living in for generations. He defined the problem as regional rather than national in scope, and offered only regional rather than national solutions.

"The reconstruction, massive as it is, is really the easy part," said Bruce Reed, president of the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of centrist Democrats. "Rebuilding confidence, especially among the poor and vulnerable, is going to be extraordinarily difficult."

In dealing with the more concrete aspects of the job ahead, Mr. Bush slipped comfortably into the language that he has used as commander in chief to comfort and exhort the nation as it has waged war, hailing those Americans who have "served and sacrificed" and pledging that the government "will stay as long as it takes" to get the job done - an echo, almost word for word, of his formulation for how long the United States will remain in Iraq.

The president forthrightly linked the failures in response to the storm to a vulnerability to a terrorist attack and said, without committing himself to an independent investigation, that he wanted to know "all the facts" about what had gone wrong.

Mr. Bush called for unity in tackling the problems. But with only a camera before him, and New Orleans silent around him, he could draw no strength or self-assurance from the cheers of a united nation, as he did when he addressed a joint session of Congress nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Not only did his own stagecraft leave him alone in the spotlight, but whatever good will flowed to him across the aisle in those moments after the terrorist attacks is long gone, a victim of a sharply divided political culture that he did not create but to which he has often contributed.

Behind him in the empty square stood a statue of Andrew Jackson, who during the War of 1812 defeated the British in New Orleans. Mr. Bush had no such definable enemy to rally the nation against. He was not so much presenting a challenge to Americans as submitting to a test himself.

For Mr. Bush, this was a moment for the country to turn away from what he and his aides have dismissively labeled "the blame game" toward a hopeful vision of a rebuilt Gulf Coast and a smarter government. But it is not yet clear that his performance will stanch the political wounds he has suffered or ensure that he can avoid being hobbled through his second term, not just by what he lost in the faltering response to Hurricane Katrina but by the rising death toll in Iraq, sky-high energy prices and worrisome deficits.

    Amid the Ruins, a President Tries to Reconstruct His Image, Too, NYT, 16.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/politics/16assess.html

 

 

 

 

 

G.O.P. Split

Over Big Plans for Storm Spending

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times

By CARL HULSE

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - The drive to pour tens of billions of federal dollars into rebuilding the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast is widening a fissure among Republicans over fiscal policy, with more of them expressing worry about unbridled spending.

On Thursday, before President Bush's speech about his vision of the post-storm recovery, fiscal conservatives from the House and Senate joined budget watchdog groups in demanding that the administration offer ways to offset the money being provided for the region and be more judicious in asking for taxpayer dollars. In his address from New Orleans, besides laying out a sweeping federal role in the recovery, the president emphasized the importance of private entrepreneurship to create jobs "and help break the cycle of poverty."

One fiscal conservative, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said Thursday, "I don't believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana."

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, called for restoring "sanity" to federal participation in the recovery, which is at $62 billion and rising fast. The House and Senate approved tax relief Thursday at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion on top of $3.5 billion in housing vouchers approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

"We know we need to help, but throwing more and more money without accountability at this is not going to solve the problem," Mr. DeMint said.

Their comments were in marked contrast to the administration approach thus far and a call by Senate Republican leaders for a rebuilding effort similar to the Marshall Plan after World War II. Congressional Democrats advocated their own comprehensive recovery program Thursday, promoting a combination of rebuilding programs coupled with housing, health care, agriculture and education initiatives.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said he believed that providing rapid and extensive help overrode the need to cut spending elsewhere. "I think we have to understand that we have a devastation that has to be taken care of," Mr. Reid said. "And I'm not into finding where we can cut yet."

That mindset is troubling to other lawmakers who fear that in addition to a reborn Gulf Coast, something else will rise from the storm: record federal deficits.

"We know this is a huge bill," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. "We don't want to lay it on future generations."

Given the fierce political backlash to the stumbling relief effort in the days after the hurricane struck, House Republican leaders have been reluctant to stand in the way of any emergency legislation. But they are increasingly edgy about the White House's push for a potentially open-ended recovery budget, worried that the president - in trying to regroup politically - was making expensive promises they would have to keep.

"We are not sure he knows what he is getting into," said one senior Republican official who requested anonymity because of the potential consequences of publicly criticizing the administration.

The fears about the costs of the storm are building on widespread dissatisfaction among conservatives about spending in recent years by the Republican-controlled Congress. That unrest was already high after Congressional approval of a transportation measure that critics denounced as bloated with marginal home-state projects.

That sore spot was rubbed raw earlier this week when Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, suggested that the Republican Congress had already trimmed much of the fat from the federal budget, making it difficult to find ways to offset hurricane spending.

Mr. Coburn called such a claim ludicrous and other Republicans took exception as well.

"There has never been a time where there is more total spending and more wasteful spending in Washington than we have today," said Pat Toomey, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and the head of the conservative Club for Growth. "There is ample opportunity to find the offsets we need so that this does not have to be a fiscal disaster as well as a natural disaster."

On another front, Republicans and Democrats continued their dispute over how to investigate government failures in the storm response. The House approved a select committee to oversee the inquiry despite Democratic objections that only a special commission outside of Congress could do a credible job.

The House voted 224 to 188 to establish a 20-member panel to work in concert with a similar Senate panel in studying the adequacy of local, state and federal preparations for the storm and why the relief effort was so troubled, stranding thousands in chaotic conditions without sufficient food, water or medical care.

Representative David Dreier, Republican of California and chairman of the Rules Committee, angrily denied Democratic assertions that the plan to place the Republican majority in control of the inquiry was an effort to spare Congress and the Bush administration from blame.

"It is absolutely absurd to believe that any member of this House would not want to get to the truth of exactly what happened in the case of Hurricane Katrina," Mr. Dreier said.

But Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, said the special committee was an effort to "whitewash" the inquiry though she later said she would not stand in the way if Democrats want to sit on the panel.

As for paying for the recovery, Ms. Pelosi said the enormous cost called for creative thinking and she raised the possibility of special 50-year bonds tied to the reconstruction.

The conservative Republicans who are worried about the outlays said the president and Congressional leaders need to ask the public to share in the sacrifice and suggested savings could be easily wrung from federal agencies or in Congress in ways like eliminating pet projects.

"Katrina breaks my heart," said Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana and chairman of a caucus of more than 100 House Republicans who advocate conservative spending policy. "Congress must do everything the American people expect us to do to meet the needs of families and communities affected by Katrina. But we must not let Katrina break the bank for our children and grandchildren."

    G.O.P. Split Over Big Plans for Storm Spending, NYT, 16.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/politics/16cong.html

 

 

 

 

 

Water Lifts Its Awful Veil

on Landscape of Destruction

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times

By MICHAEL LUO and SEWELL CHAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 15 - The floodwaters had exploded through the siding of the small wooden house, and through the exposed wall beams, it was now possible to see fragments of the life it once contained: curled snapshots of family members taped to the walls, a yellowing poster of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech about a dream, an old, sodden sofa. And below it all was a two-inch carpet of stinking mud.

There will no longer be life in this house, on the corner of Feliciana and North Miro streets. Or in most of the other houses, similarly stricken, that stretch to the horizon through these impoverished and now ruined sections of the city's Bywater and Lower Ninth Ward neighborhoods.

Just a few days ago, these streets were underwater, impassable except by boat. The waterline was nearly to the roofs, where search teams had spray-painted their grim runes. But on Thursday the water had begun to recede, and for the first time since the storm it was possible to see the details of the devastation inflicted on the city and some of its poorest residents.

The gray clapboard house two blocks up had fallen down on itself. An emaciated dog sat on its wrecked front porch, its head down. The pink house just down the street had lost its front door - it was in the living room. The white house a little further down was just a skeleton, with the siding peeling off and no interior walls left.

Some homes had simply fallen down. Others that were more sturdy had their insides gutted. With the water gone, thick, brown-black, sulfurous sludge was left, encrusting everything.

In most cases, personal effects were nowhere to be found. The floodwaters washed away all but the largest items - couches, televisions, dressers, even aquariums.

A few items were salvageable inside one house: a framed photo of the rapper Tupac Shakur hung on the wall, along with a high school diploma and a photograph of a young woman; a DVD of Will Smith's movie "Enemy of the State" sat atop a toppled stereo case.

The sound and dust of bulldozers is likely to be here soon. Mayor C. Ray Nagin suggested at a news conference Thursday that half the city's homes may have to come down.

"It's my take from talking to experts that most of the homes that were flooded, that stayed in the water for a number of weeks, mostly likely will have to be destroyed," Mr. Nagin said. "We're probably conservatively saying that half of the city's homes are probably rebuildable."

But many of the homes in this neighborhood - on the other side of the railroad tracks and a few miles from downtown - are likely to be in the other half.

"A lot of these houses are going to have to come down," said Juan C. Spencer, 29, a New Orleans firefighter. He was driving through the neighborhood Thursday in an S.U.V. with his friend, Jermaine R. Perry, 31, also a firefighter, to check on the homes of a few friends.

Mr. Perry was on his cellphone with Hattie Matthews, 48, whose elderly uncle had been living at 2410 Feliciana Street, in a brick home that had fared relatively well compared with some of its counterparts. Still, Ms. Matthews said she doubted it could be saved, given how long it had been submerged.

"We know we can't go back in and live there," she said, adding that she had canceled the homeowners insurance before the storm because it was too expensive.

Her uncle's block was almost entirely brown: a cascade of brown mud, with brown cars parked askew, half on the sidewalk, half on the street. A brown tree cradled a black chair in its branches. A brown toilet lay on its side in the middle of the street.

It is unclear whether the neighborhood and others like it will ever house people again, whether they can ever be properly protected by a system of walls and levees and pumps that failed so spectacularly three weeks ago. Like so much of New Orleans, the Ninth Ward is unnatural. Its houses were erected over marsh stiffened by landfill.

"Can the Ninth Ward be protected - or can it ever be protected - by the levee system?" asked Lionel C. McIntyre, an associate professor in Columbia University's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation who grew up in New Orleans.

Mr. Nagin said that outside experts, including some from Holland and Germany, have come to the city to help analyze what sections are risky to redevelop and what are not, and what type of levee system is needed. Only after those assessments are made will residents of those areas be allowed back in, he said.

Any discussion about rebuilding must take equity among neighborhoods into account, Professor McIntyre said.

"Other than Uptown, the rest of the city is just as vulnerable to flooding as the Ninth Ward," he said. "Do we just salvage the Tchoupitoulas-to-St. Charles corridor and the French Quarter and call it a day?"

Some say that a few of the most severely mangled houses might be livable again. It is sometimes surprising how damaged homes can be rebuilt, said Thomas L. Jackson, a civil and structural engineer from New Orleans and a former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Siding can be hammered back on, floors replaced and walls rebuilt. In New Orleans, much is also dependent on the health risks of the toxic mud and on the quality of the housing before the storm.

"If it was rundown and rickety before the storm, it's not worth fixing," Mr. Jackson said. "It's a replacement."

How long the structures were submerged is also a major factor in their fate. "The big concern these days is mold," said Craig E. Colten, a professor of geography at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. "The more thorough the saturation, the deeper the mold gets in. The longer it takes to dry, the longer the mold has to get established as well."

Dr. Colten said the city should not attempt to rebuild in the most vulnerable areas.

"The ideal use of those lowest areas would allow them to serve as flood-retention basins, so when the next flood comes, the water can collect in places where it won't harm people and property," he said. "We need to think very carefully about helping people relocate from those areas, transplant themselves and their communities into new locales that are less vulnerable."

Many others, including local politicians and neighborhood leaders, strongly disagree and have vowed to restart a community here.

But it is hard at this moment to imagine life returning to these blocks. On the southeast corner of Feliciana and North Rocheblave Street, a bent sign on the front lawn of yet another badly damaged home signaled the intentions that at least one homeowner had before the storm. The house was for sale.

    Water Lifts Its Awful Veil on Landscape of Destruction, NYT, 16.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/national/nationalspecial/16flood.html

 

 

 

 

 


In Search of a Family Treasure

 

September 16, 2005
The New York Times

By JAMES BENNET

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 15 - Cherie Froeba returned Thursday to Fable Drive, in the subdivision of Story, determined to salvage something from the home in devastated St. Bernard Parish where she had lived with her husband, David, for 15 years.

Ms. Froeba, 41, was set on one particular item. "I have my grandmother's Bible in a Ziploc bag in a drawer," she said while still a few blocks away. "She wrote in it like a diary."

Hoping that the damage might not be so bad, she brought along a garden trowel to move aside any muck. But after the couple reached the neighborhood in a pickup truck and Mr. Froeba realized how high the water had climbed, he warned her, "There's not going to be anything."

Just two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, Mr. Froeba, 42, had a heart attack while mowing the lawn. He spent six days in the hospital. When the family evacuated before the storm, they did not overdo the packing. But Michael David Froeba, 9, was not about to leave behind his Game Boy and PlayStation, and Whitney, 14, took her high heels and favorite dresses.

The youngsters were doing all right, Ms. Froeba said. They had enrolled in school in Baton Rouge, where the family rented a condominium near her sister. Ms. Froeba still had her job, as the office manager in the New Orleans branch of Jeffries International, and Mr. Froeba still had his job as a sales associate with the Sysco food service. It was just hard, she said, to start over when so much of life had seemed so settled.

Outside the family's one-story brick house, thousands of dried minnows thatched the cracked mud in the gutters. The flood had forced open the side door. On her first glimpse inside, Ms. Froeba gasped, "Oh my God," and began to cry.

"It's lost," Mr. Froeba said. "That's it. Done."

Water had reached the attic, soaking the insulation, which then brought down the ceiling. Sodden insulation was draped in the chandelier and across upended furniture in a ruin of sludge and weeds. Ms. Froeba sobbed something inaudible and went inside. "What, baby?" her husband said gently. "Cherie, don't go in there." He added, "There's no sense in going to the back."

"I'm going," she said. "I want to get to my bedroom." That was where she had put the Bible, in the underwear drawer in her dresser. Mr. Froeba followed her.

The water had heaved the dresser onto its back and swollen its drawers. Mrs. Froeba began to pound it with a hammer. Then Mr. Froeba tried. The wood did not yield. "I give up," she sobbed. Mr. Froeba yanked the drawer, pulling its front away in his hands.

Ms. Froeba reached inside and found the Bible. Inside the bag, it was dry. She burst into tears. Then she reached for her husband, pulled him to her and hugged him tight.

    In Search of a Family Treasure, NYT, 16.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/national/nationalspecial/16bible.html

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina's economic hit palpable: adviser

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005 1:10 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina will hurt the U.S. economy in the short run but bright long-term prospects mean the Bush administration can push ahead with its reform agenda, a top White House economic adviser said on Thursday.

"In the shorter term, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina will have a palpable effect on the national economy," White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke said in prepared remarks for delivery at the National Press Club. But he said private-sector forecasts were for healthy long-run growth.

Bernanke said the White House intends to continue pursuing policies that have make the economy able to withstand shocks and that will keep growth on track.

"These policies include making tax relief permanent, reducing the budget deficit by limiting spending, strengthening retirement and health security through efforts like Social Security reform ... and enhancing energy security," Bernanke said.

    Katrina's economic hit palpable: adviser, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2005-09-15T170926Z_01_MOR561294_RTRIDST_0_BUSINESS-ECONOMY-BERNANKE-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Key parts of New Orleans to reopen

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005 12:56 PM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The New Orleans central business district and the historic French Quarter will reopen over the weekend, nearly three weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, Mayor Ray Nagin said on Thursday.

"We're ready to start the re-entry process," Nagin said. "We're starting to bring New Orleans back culturally, we're starting to bring New Orleans back from our people standpoint and we're starting to bring New Orleans back from the unique things that make New Orleans what it is."

He said business operators in the French Quarter tourist district, the central business district, and from the uptown and Algiers neighborhoods would be allowed to return on Saturday and Sunday. Residents of those areas would be allowed to return in the following days in a phased process.

The areas to reopen were home to about 180,000 people, he said, out of a population of 450,000 before Katrina flooded the city and forced a total evacuation.

Many other neighborhoods could take months longer to reopen, Nagin said at a news conference. Some will probably have to be leveled.

Well-armed security forces will strictly enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

"We are not taking any crap," Nagin said. "If you come back to this city and you think it's going to be the way it was before, we have a rude awakening for you."

The French Quarter, which escaped the worst flooding, would reopen to residents a week from this coming Monday.

"The French Quarter is high and dry and we feel it has good electricity capabilities. But since it is so historic, we want to double and triple check before we fire up all electricity in there to make sure because every building is so close that if a fire breaks out we won't lose a significant amount of what we cherish in this city," Nagin said.

Near the French Quarter, the more heavily damaged Treme area, considered the cradle of the city's jazz history, would be the next focus, he said.

He said New Orleans would "start to breathe again."

"We will have life. We will have commerce. We will have people getting back to their normal modes of operation and the normal rhythm of the city of New Orleans, that is so unique."

    Key parts of New Orleans to reopen, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-15T165601Z_01_EIC558320_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-NEWORLEANS-REOPEN-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush to unveil Katrina recovery plan

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:07 AM ET
Reuters
By Maggie Fox

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President George W. Bush planned to announce a recovery plan from the effects of Hurricane Katrina on Thursday and aimed to reassure Americans that their government could respond to new terrorist attacks or natural disasters, despite major lapses over the storm.

Bush was to unveil his plan in a televised prime-time address, after two weeks of battling bipartisan criticisms and making a rare admission of government failures in what may be the United States' costliest natural disaster.

Polls show the faltering response at all levels of authority to the August 29 hurricane has weakened public confidence both in Bush and in the government's ability to protect them -- a major theme of the president's 2004 reelection campaign.

A New York Times/CBS poll found 56 percent of Americans were less confident about the government's ability to respond to future emergencies, whether man-made or natural.

"There were shortcomings. There were breakdowns in communication, things that we shouldn't be tolerating in our country in a post-9/11 world, and President Bush takes responsibility and accountability for that," White House counselor Dan Bartlett said on CNN, referring to the attacks on New York and Washington of September 11, 2001.

"He's going to make sure that we work at every level of government across the country to ensure that we learned the lessons from this experience so we can do everything we can to help make sure it doesn't happen again," Bartlett said, in one of four appearances on morning television news shows to preview the speech.

The U.S. Congress has already approved $62.3 billion in aid for the region, and a key lawmaker said this week that Bush could ask for another $50 billion within a month.

The official death toll from Katrina climbed to 711 on Wednesday after Louisiana officials raised the number of confirmed fatalities in that state to 474. There were 218 dead in Mississippi and another 19 deaths confirmed in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Still, that was nowhere near some of the warnings of many thousands dead put forward by some officials in the chaotic aftermath of the storm.

 

RETURN TO CITY

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, whose city of 450,000 was all but turned into a ghost town after levee breaks flooded most of it, said he would introduce measures of his own on Thursday.

"I'm going to announce a phased repopulation plan that is going to deal with some of the areas that were least hit by the hurricane and had less water, and then within the next week or two we should have about 180,000 people back in the city of New Orleans," Nagin told CNN on Wednesday.

Nagin singled out the historic French Quarter, which is above sea level and did not suffer flood damage, as well as the central business district and two other neighborhoods as likely candidates for early resettlement.

Parts of New Orleans are still under water. In poor neighborhoods, lightly built structures were lifted off their foundations by the water and collapsed. Many appeared beyond repair.

The storm will likely be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with damage estimates ranging from $100 billion to $200 billion.

New Orleans was still technically under a mandatory evacuation order, but some residents were sneaking back to reclaim houses that escaped heavy damage.

In the Garden District near downtown, where many gracious homes were spared, some people had returned.

 

RECOVERY IN MISSISSIPPI

In Mississippi, the small coastal city of Long Beach was temporarily reopening to residents, giving them four days to retrieve personal items from ruined homes before the city sends bulldozers and cleanup crews in on Monday.

In Gulfport, officials were planning to move more than a thousand storm survivors out of schools and into community centers and trailers so children could be back in classrooms by early October.

As Bush this week for the first time acknowledged personal responsibility for some of the problems following the hurricane, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told state lawmakers Wednesday night that the state also shared responsibility.

"There were failures at every level of government," she said, adding that "the buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility."

Members of the bipartisan commission that examined the September 11 attacks have been speaking in recent days about how many of their key recommendations had not been implemented.

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the commission's Republican chairman, said: "Hurricane Katrina pointed out serious flaws in our emergency preparedness and response. And what is frustrating to us is that these are many of the same problems we saw in 9/11 and the response to that disaster."

For example, he said, rescuers after Katrina were hampered by poor communications. The commission identified this as a key problem after 9/11 and called on Congress to allocate additional radio frequencies to state and local agencies to cope with disaster but Congress has not acted.

    Bush to unveil Katrina recovery plan, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-15T150625Z_01_DIT553296_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina swells ranks of unemployed

 

Thu Sep 15, 2005 8:55 AM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid shot up by 71,000 last week, the biggest jump in nearly 10 years, as workers displaced by Hurricane Katrina sought to join the benefit rolls, the government said on Thursday.

The rise in first-time claims for state unemployment aid, among the first economic data to capture the human toll of the devastating storm, brought initial filings in the week ended September 10 to 398,000, the highest level in two years.

The Labor Department estimated that 68,000 of those claims were related to Katrina, which slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast on August 29. However, it cautioned that it was unable to process the huge surge in claims that were filed as state workers waded into evacuee shelters to log applications.

"Due to the unprecedented volume of claims filed in the affected areas and due to the unconventional methods used in filing, the numbers that are reported do not truly reflect the number of claims filed," a department analyst said.

He said the department could not offer a "ballpark" figure on how many claims had been collected but not yet captured in the department's report. "We are expecting an upward revision in the following week," he said.

Forecasts on Wall Street had centered on a guess that initial claims would rise to 350,000 from the 319,000 initially reported for the prior week. However, Hurricane Katrina led to a wide dispersion of projections -- from a low of 320,000 to a high of 800,000.

The increase in initial claims was the largest for any week since January 1996, when blizzards blanketed the East Coast.

The big jump pushed a four-week moving average of claims up by 19,750 to 340,750, the highest level in nearly a year. Economists usually track the less-volatile moving average to get a better sense of underlying job-market trends.

The number of workers who continued to file for benefits after an initial week of aid rose by 20,000 to 2.59 million. But that number is certain to swell as workers displaced by Katrina join the rolls.

States provide unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, but lawmakers are already mulling a federal program to extend aid for an additional 13 weeks in the wake of the storm. Congress passed similar extensions amid the jobless recovery from the 2001 recession.

    Katrina swells ranks of unemployed, R, 15.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-15T125404Z_01_EIC545362_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-ECONOMY-USA-JOBLESS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush to Focus

on Vision for Reconstruction

in Speech Tonight

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
and RICHARD W. STEVENSON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - President Bush is to pledge in an address to the nation from New Orleans on Thursday night that the federal government will provide housing assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina and also help reimburse the states for costs they have absorbed in taking in evacuees, a White House official said Wednesday.

The commitments are part of a series of initiatives that the president is expected to announce as he tries to recover from the political fallout over the government's handling of the storm.

The initiatives will encompass education, health care and other social services, with specific housing and job assistance for people who return to New Orleans to live. White House officials said the president would not call for any set-asides or quotas for minorities in reconstruction contracts.

The proposals were still in the planning stages on Wednesday night, and officials said the 9 p.m. address, the president's first major speech on the hurricane, would not be a State of the Union "laundry list" of proposals. Instead, they said, it would focus more generally on Mr. Bush's vision for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, with the federal government playing a supportive role to what White House officials are calling a "home-grown" plan that must be created by city and state authorities.

"We're in the beginning of the rebuilding at this point, and there are a lot of ideas that people are expressing," Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday. "The president wants people to think big."

Mr. McClellan indicated that Mr. Bush would not use the speech to name a "reconstruction czar" to oversee the effort. A number of White House officials have advised the president to name such a czar, with Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of forces in the 2001 war in Afghanistan, being a favorite of Republicans who are pushing the idea.

White House officials also played down the notion that Mr. Bush would offer a "Marshall Plan" for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, as the Senate Republican leadership called for in a letter to the president on Wednesday. "We stand ready to work with you to lay out a comprehensive approach to the coordination of relief and development efforts through a 'Marshall Plan' for the Gulf Coast as soon as possible," said the letter, signed by Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, and others.

Instead, administration officials and a Republican close to the White House said Mr. Bush would offer some general principles about "building a better New Orleans" with stricter construction standards to try to avoid a replay of the recent catastrophe. Republicans said Mr. Bush would not mention a price tag, in large part because of budget and political pressures from House Republicans and other supporters angry about administration spending.

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.

As of Wednesday, few if any members of Congress had been informed by the administration of the president's plans. But Congressional leaders nonetheless offered Mr. Bush advice on his speech.

"I want him to reassure the people that the big part of this fight is ahead of us, and he's going to make sure that the federal government does a better job, does its part," Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday night. "We're all to blame to a degree." Mr. Lott added that Congress should never have passed legislation, as the White House wanted, that made the Federal Emergency Management Agency part of the Department of Homeland Security.

"We went along with that, and I guess we'll have to go back and try to rewrite the history, but that should be an independent agency reporting only to the president of the United States," Mr. Lott said.

    Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech Tonight, NYT, 15.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/politics/15bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support for Bush

Continues to Drop, Poll Shows

NYT        15.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/politics/15poll.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support for Bush Continues to Drop,

Poll Shows

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times
By TODD S. PURDUM
and MARJORIE CONNELLY

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - A summer of bad news from Iraq, high gasoline prices, economic unease and now the devastation of Hurricane Katrina has left President Bush with overall approval ratings for his job performance and handling of Iraq, foreign policy and the economy at or near the lowest levels of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

For the first time, just half of Americans approve of Mr. Bush's handling of terrorism, which has been his most consistent strength since he scored 90 percent approval ratings in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 6 in 10 now say that he does not share their priorities for the country, 10 percentage points worse than on the eve of his re-election last fall, while barely half say he has strong qualities of leadership, about the same as said so at the early low-ebb of his presidency in the summer of 2001.

More Americans now distrust the federal government to do the right thing than at any time since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And the poll revealed a sharp racial divide. While half of all respondents disapprove of the way Mr. Bush has handled the aftermath of Katrina, nearly three quarters of blacks do. (Mr. Bush won only about 10 percent of the black vote last year.)

The hurricane, alone, does not appear to have taken any significant toll on Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating, which remains stuck virtually where it has been since early summer. But the findings do suggest that the slow federal response to the hurricane has increased public doubts about the Bush administration's effectiveness. Fifty-six percent of Americans said they were now less confident about the government's ability to respond to a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

Taken together, the numbers suggest that a public that has long seen Mr. Bush as a determined leader, whether it agreed with him or not, has growing doubts about his capacity to deal with pressing problems. More than 6 in 10 said they were uneasy about his ability to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq, and half expressed similar unease about his ability to deal with the problems of the storm's victims.

Mr. Bush's support remained strong among Republicans, conservatives, evangelical Christians and those who said they voted for him last fall. Nearly twice as many people - 63 percent - said the country was "pretty seriously" on the wrong track as those who said it was headed in the right direction, equal to the worst level of Mr. Bush's presidency during a spate of bad news last year.

Over all, 41 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Bush's performance in office, while 53 percent disapproved. Those figures are in line with other national polls conducted in the last week, roughly equal to the worst ratings Mr. Bush has ever received, comparable to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton's worst ratings, but well above the worst ever posted by the president's father, Jimmy Carter and Richard M. Nixon.

The Times/CBS News Poll was conducted Friday through Tuesday with 1,167 adults, including 877 whites and 211 blacks. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all respondents and whites, and seven percentage points for blacks. The survey was mostly completed before Mr. Bush said on Tuesday that he accepted responsibility for flaws in the federal response to the hurricane.

Dan Bartlett, Mr. Bush's counselor and chief communications strategist, said the White House was not especially surprised by the poll's findings.

"Obviously, as we have said, with a sharp increase in the cost of gasoline and anxiety about the war, that is obviously reflected in the polls, and then we have a sustained amount of heavy coverage of what has been described as a major failure of government at all levels, it shouldn't surprise people that that would be reflected in the poll numbers on the president, and particularly on terrorism," Mr. Bartlett said.

"The president is going to continue to focus on his responsibilities as not only president but commander in chief, when it comes to making sure we do everything we can to help the people hit by Katrina, as well as continue to conduct the war on terrorism in an aggressive way," he added.

While the poll found that 70 percent said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was too slow in responding to the aftermath of the hurricane, 53 percent said the agency was now doing all it could reasonably be expected to do.

The same did not hold true for the Bush administration itself; 68 percent said it had not yet developed a clear plan for finding housing and jobs for people left homeless by the hurricane. Mr. Bush is to address the nation from New Orleans on Thursday night to elaborate on the government's planned response to the disaster.

Before the storm hit, polls had shown that rising gasoline prices were becoming increasingly worrisome to a majority of Americans, and the hurricane has only worsened that concern. Almost half the public said the economy was deteriorating, the worst that number has been in four years. Fifty-six percent expect the economy to decline as a result of the hurricane, and nearly three-quarters anticipate taxes will rise for the same reason.

The poll also pointed up starkly different attitudes toward Mr. Bush and the government among blacks and whites that were not so much caused by the storm as laid bare by it. While two-thirds of all Americans said Mr. Bush cares at least somewhat about the people left homeless by the hurricane, fewer than one-third of blacks agreed. Two-thirds of blacks said race was a major factor in the government's slow response to the flooding in New Orleans, while an almost identical number of whites said it was not.

Storm victims had to wait for a week for help to arrive, said Allison McKinney, 33, a housewife and former teacher in Fort Bragg, N.C. "I don't think that would happen to any other city, because New Orleans is a poor city." Ms. McKinney, who is black, grew up in New Orleans and was among those who agreed to be interviewed after participating in the poll. "It took Katrina for people to realize that the city had a major impact on the rest of the country. I think it's sad that you would wait for the total devastation of a city to come to that realization."

But Juanita Harrington, 78, a retired Verizon employee and Bush supporter in Larkspur, Colo., said critics of the president "focus everything as if he were a magician and could wave a magic wand and change things."

She added: "The people that were there locally didn't take care of matters there, either. I'm talking about the mayor of New Orleans, I'm talking about the governor, I'm talking about that crazy woman senator from Louisiana - she was an idiot. He may not have succeeded totally, but nobody else did, either."

The poll suggested the cumulative effects of months of bad news from the continuing insurgency in Iraq. Exactly 50 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Bush's handling of terrorism, for example, and while that figure is the single worst ranking since the question was first asked four years ago, it is only slightly worse than it was early this summer. But that is 11 points worse than it was in February, just after the first successful round of elections in Iraq.

The data also suggest that the residual support that has steadily buoyed Mr. Bush in the four years since the Sept. 11 attacks may have reached its limit, for now. Fifty-three percent of Americans still say he has strong qualities of leadership, down 9 percentage points since he was re-elected and essentially equal to his all-time previous low in the summer of 2001, when his presidency seemed becalmed before the attacks.

At the same time, 45 percent of Americans now say Mr. Bush does not have strong leadership qualities, six percentage points more than last fall, and the highest percentage since the Times/CBS poll first asked the question during Mr. Bush's initial campaign in 1999.

Those general impressions now extend across the board in reviews of Mr. Bush's handling of particular issues. Thirty-eight percent of Americans approve of his handling of foreign policy; 35 percent of his handling of the economy; and 36 percent of his handling of the situation in Iraq. All those are at or roughly equal to his all-time lows - and below his all-time highs by double digits.

Some of the pessimism seemed clearly fueled by higher gasoline prices. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they had cut back on household spending as a result of higher prices, and 8 in 10 said the administration had no plan for keeping prices down, though more than 6 in 10 said the price of gas is something a president can do a lot about.

A majority of the public is willing to pay more in taxes to assist hurricane victims with job training and housing; about 4 in 10 said they would be willing to pay as much as $200 a year more to help out with the storm's aftermath.

Megan Thee and Fred Backus contributed reporting for this article.

    Support for Bush Continues to Drop, Poll Shows, NYT, 15.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/politics/15poll.html

 

 

 

 

 

More Deaths Confirmed

in Homes for the Aged

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times
By DAVID ROHDE and SHAILA DEWAN

 

A day after Louisiana officials charged the owners of a nursing home in the deaths of 34 patients there, the owners of two other nursing homes confirmed yesterday that an additional 13 patients died in their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. State officials also said they were investigating the deaths of 14 patients at yet another nursing home in New Orleans.

The new reports suggest that at least 61 patients died in four New Orleans-area nursing homes after their operators ignored a mandatory evacuation order a day before Hurricane Katrina hit. The owners of 15 other nursing homes contacted by The New York Times said they had successfully evacuated hundreds of patients from their homes.

A total of 53 nursing homes were evacuated in the New Orleans area, but it is unclear how many of them were evacuated before the storm.

Some nursing homes spent as much as $50,000 to move their patients to safety, including using private helicopters, owners and administrators said. Other nursing home owners chose to keep their patients in the city and wait out the storm.

The attorney general, Charles C. Foti Jr., was investigating reports that 14 people died at the Lafon Nursing Facility of Holy Family in New Orleans, said his chief spokeswoman, Kris Wartelle.

"We're trying to make sure the criminal justice system still works in this case," Ms. Wartelle said. "It is such a horrendously horrible thing, and it's so important to these families."

Peggy Hoffmann, executive director of the nonprofit Bethany Home, said 9 of her home's 49 patients died after she chose not to move them despite the mayor's mandatory evacuation order. Ms. Hoffman said she had been unable to find 10 patients who were evacuated to the New Orleans airport and flown to an unknown city.

"I haven't been able to sleep at night," Ms. Hoffmann said. "We haven't been able to track down 10 of my people who went through my airport."

She said she thought it would be better for her fragile patients to remain in the home, which sits on high ground, than to endure the stress of an evacuation. In past hurricane evacuations in New Orleans, nursing home patients have died on buses caught in traffic jams for up to 12 hours.

Andrew Sandler, the administrator of a second nonprofit nursing home, Maison Hospitaliere, where four patients died, cited the same reason and added that the evacuation order was not made until the day before the hurricane struck.

"Usually there is more warning," Mr. Sandler said. "This one came very quickly."

Neither home flooded, and both had emergency generators that provided limited electricity. Both owners said that day after day of high temperatures inside the homes might have contributed to the deaths, but they were not sure.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa asked the Department of Justice, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office yesterday to begin full investigations of the deaths in nursing homes.

"The utter disrespect for the life and dignity of the frail and elderly is nearly incomprehensible," wrote Mr. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

In other developments yesterday, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who has been a vocal critic of the federal response to the hurricane and subsequent flooding, said blame should be shared by all levels of government - and included herself.

"We all know that there were failures at all level of government: state, federal and local," Ms. Blanco said in a speech before a joint session of the Louisiana Legislature. "At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here. And as your governor, I take full responsibility."

She said she had demanded that FEMA give priority to Louisiana residents in rebuilding jobs and to "pay them in a timely fashion."

The federal government, Ms. Blanco said, should also "cover 100 percent of what Louisiana will spend on this disaster - just as was done after 9/11."

The governor also said she had issued an executive order directing state agencies to limit spending, and called for federal aid to rebuild houses, bring residents back to the state, offer tax breaks and loans to businesses, and extend unemployment benefits. She said she had hired a former FEMA director, James Lee Witt, to help work with FEMA to cut through bureaucracy.

Standing outside the chambers, Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans said he had missed all but the end of the governor's speech, but called it "encouraging."

But, Mr. Nagin said, he is "nervous about how the implementation is going to take place."

On Tuesday, the state attorney general's office charged the owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in Violet, just east of New Orleans, with multiple counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of 34 residents. The attorney general said the couple, Mable B. Mangano, 62, and Salvatore A. Mangano Sr., 65, had not acted on several warnings to move the residents as the hurricane approached.

In an interview on Wednesday, the couple's lawyer, James A. Cobb, said his clients were innocent, calling the charges "absurd" and "mean spirited."

"These folks have lost everything," Mr. Cobb said. "They've lost their entire life's work."

He said that the home was above flood stage level and that most of the families decided to keep their relatives at St. Rita's.

Tony Mendoza, a nursing home owner who used a private helicopter to evacuate patients before the hurricane's arrival, criticized nursing home owners who chose to remain in the city. Mr. Mendoza said he chose to evacuate his two commercial homes on Friday, two full days before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

"It was a given," Mr. Mendoza said. "Every hour that went by since Friday you knew you had to go."

Kevan Cullins's 100-year-old grandmother was evacuated from Lafon a few days after the flooding, only to die, dehydrated and weak, a few days later in a hospital. Mr. Cullins said that when his family called Lafon before the storm, staff members said they had a generator and the staff was going to stay with the patients, Mr. Cullins said. If it flooded, he said, they planned to move to the second floor.

Mr. Cullins said the home had made the wrong decision in failing to evacuate.

"But at the same time," he said, "there's a lot of people in that nursing home that may not have made it anyway, they're just that frail. It's a Catch-22. A lot of the people were like my grandmother, 100 years old, and they didn't have too much more to go, but they didn't deserve to die like that."

Lafon and Bethany had been cited by inspectors for mistreatment and quality of care deficiencies from April 2004 to June 2005. But Lafon, with 8 deficiencies, had less than the state average of 10 per home, while Bethany had 23. For both homes, all of the deficiencies were rated 2 on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 indicating the lowest level of harm or potential harm to residents.

Lauren Shaham, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, based in Washington, said her group, which represents about 5,300 nonprofit nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and elderly-housing sites, including about 90 in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina, had not had complaints that nursing homes were not evacuated.

St. Rita's was not a member of the association.

"I think the St. Rita's thing, at least from what we're hearing, is really an anomaly, far from the norm," Ms. Shaham said.

 

Reporting for this article was contributed by Michael Luo and William Yardley from New Orleans; Timothy Williams from Baton Rouge, La.; and Paul von Zielbauer from New York.

    More Deaths Confirmed in Homes for the Aged, NYT, 15.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/national/nationalspecial/15storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/

L: President George W. Bush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ex-FEMA Chief

Tells of Frustration and Chaos

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
and SCOTT SHANE

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - Hours after Hurricane Katrina passed New Orleans on Aug. 29, as the scale of the catastrophe became clear, Michael D. Brown recalls, he placed frantic calls to his boss, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, and to the office of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr.

Mr. Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he told the officials in Washington that the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and her staff were proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort and that his field officers in the city were reporting an "out of control" situation.

"I am having a horrible time," Mr. Brown said he told Mr. Chertoff and a White House official - either Mr. Card or his deputy, Joe Hagin - in a status report that evening. "I can't get a unified command established."

By the time of that call, he added, "I was beginning to realize things were going to hell in a handbasket" in Louisiana. A day later, Mr. Brown said, he asked the White House to take over the response effort.

He said he felt the subsequent appointment of Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré as the Pentagon's commander of active-duty forces met the need for more federal help.

In his first extensive interview since resigning as FEMA director on Monday under intense criticism, Mr. Brown declined to blame President Bush or the White House for his removal or for the flawed response.

"I truly believed the White House was not at fault here," he said.

He focused much of his criticism on Governor Blanco, contrasting what he described as her confused response with far more agile mobilizations in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in Florida during last year's hurricanes.

But Mr. Brown's account, in which he described making "a blur of calls" all week to Mr. Chertoff, Mr. Card and Mr. Hagin, suggested that Mr. Bush, or at least his top aides, were informed early and repeatedly by the top federal official at the scene that state and local authorities were overwhelmed and that the overall response was going badly.

A senior administration official said Wednesday night that White House officials recalled the conversations with Mr. Brown but did not believe they had the urgency or desperation he described in the interview.

"There's a general recollection of him saying, 'They're going to need more help,' " said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of internal White House discussions.

Mr. Brown's version of events raises questions about whether the White House and Mr. Chertoff acted aggressively enough in ratcheting up the response. New Orleans convulsed in looting and violence after the hurricane, and troops did not arrive in force to restore order until five days later.

The account also suggests that responsibility for the failure may go well beyond Mr. Brown, who has been widely pilloried as an inexperienced manager who previously oversaw horse show judges.

Mr. Brown was removed by Mr. Chertoff last week from directing the relief effort. A 50-year-old lawyer and Republican activist who joined FEMA as general counsel in 2001, Mr. Brown said he had been hobbled by limitations on the power of the agency to command needed resources.

With only 2,600 employees nationwide, he said, FEMA must rely on state workers, the National Guard, private contractors and other federal agencies to supply manpower and equipment.

He said his biggest mistake was in waiting until the end of the day on Aug. 30 to explicitly ask the White House to take over the response from FEMA and state officials.

Of his resignation, Mr. Brown said: "I said I was leaving because I don't want to be a distraction. I want to focus on what happened here and the issues that this raises."

A spokesman for Ms. Blanco denied Mr. Brown's description of disarray in Louisiana's emergency response operation. "That is just totally inaccurate," Bob Mann, the governor's communications director, said. "Everything that Mr. Brown needed in terms of resources or information from the state, he had those available to him."

In Washington, Mr. Chertoff's spokesman, Russ Knocke, said there had been no delay in the federal response. "We pushed absolutely everything we could," Mr. Knocke said, "every employee, every asset, every effort, to save and sustain lives."

As Mr. Brown recounted it, the weekend before New Orleans's levees burst, FEMA sent an emergency response team of 10 or 20 people to Louisiana to review evacuation plans with local officials.

By Saturday afternoon, many residents were leaving. But as the hurricane approached early on Sunday, Mr. Brown said he grew so frustrated with the failure of local authorities to make the evacuation mandatory that he asked Mr. Bush for help.

"Would you please call the mayor and tell him to ask people to evacuate?" Mr. Brown said he asked Mr. Bush in a phone call.

"Mike, you want me to call the mayor?" the president responded in surprise, Mr. Brown said. Moments later, apparently on his own, the mayor, C. Ray Nagin, held a news conference to announce a mandatory evacuation, but it was too late, Mr. Brown said. Plans said it would take at least 72 hours to get everyone out.

When he arrived in Baton Rouge Sunday evening, Mr. Brown said, he was immediately concerned about the lack of coordinated response from Governor Blanco and Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

"What do you need? Help me help you," Mr. Brown said he asked them. "The response was like, 'Let us find out,' and then I never received specific requests for specific things that needed doing."

The most responsive person he could find, Mr. Brown said, was Governor Blanco's husband, Raymond. "He would try to go find stuff out for me," Mr. Brown said.

Governor Blanco's communications director, Mr. Mann, said that she was frustrated that Mr. Brown and others at FEMA wanted itemized requests before acting. "It was like walking into an emergency room bleeding profusely and being expected to instruct the doctors how to treat you," he said.

On Monday night, Mr. Brown said, he reported his growing worries to Mr. Chertoff and the White House. He said he did not ask for federal active-duty troops to be deployed because he assumed his superiors in Washington were doing all they could. Instead, he said, he repeated a dozen times, "I cannot get a unified command established."

The next morning, Mr. Brown said, he and Governor Blanco decided to take a helicopter into New Orleans to see the mayor and assess the situation. But before the helicopter took off, his field coordinating officer, or F.C.O., called from the city on a satellite phone. "It is getting out of control down here; the levee has broken," the staffer told him, he said.

"I know that," Mr. Brown replied.

"But it is beginning to flood downtown," the field coordinator said. "We have got enough food for 24 hours, but the water is really beginning to rise."

When they boarded the helicopter, Mr. Brown said, he was surprised to find both of Louisiana's senators and several other people along for the ride. The crowd in the Superdome, the city's shelter of last resort, was already larger than expected. But he said he was relieved to see that the mayor had a detailed list of priorities, starting with help to evacuate the Superdome.

He passed the list on to the state emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, but when he returned that evening he was surprised to find that nothing had been done.

"I am just screaming at my F.C.O., 'Where are the helicopters?' " he recalled. " 'Where is the National Guard? Where is all the stuff that the mayor wanted?' "

FEMA, he said, had no helicopters and only a few communications trucks. The agency typically depends on state resources, a system he said worked well in the other Gulf Coast states and in Florida last year.

Meanwhile, "unbeknownst to me," Mr. Brown said, at some point on Monday or Tuesday the hotels started directing their remaining guests to the convention center - something neither FEMA nor local officials had planned.

"It would just be nice if we had known about it in advance," he said. "When the doors open, all of the people start coming out of the woodwork in New Orleans."

At the same time, the Superdome was degenerating into "gunfire and anarchy," and on Tuesday the FEMA staff and medical team in New Orleans called to say they were leaving for their own safety. "They were in tears," he said. "They were brokenhearted. It was gut-wrenching."

That night, Mr. Brown said, he called Mr. Chertoff and the White House again in desperation. "Guys, this is bigger than what we can handle," he told them, he said. "This is bigger than what FEMA can do. I am asking for help."

"Maybe I should have screamed 12 hours earlier," Mr. Brown said in the interview. "But that is hindsight. We were still trying to make things work."

By Wednesday morning, Mr. Brown said, he learned that General Honoré was on his way. While the general did not have responsibility for the entire relief effort and the National Guard, his commanding manner helped mobilize the state's efforts.

"Honoré shows up and he and I have a phone conversation," Mr. Brown said. "He gets the message, and, boom, it starts happening. With Honoré, I have got exactly what I need."

Mr. Brown said that in one much-publicized gaffe - his repeated statement on live television on Thursday night, Sept. 1, that he had just learned that day of thousands of people at New Orleans's convention center without food or water - "I just absolutely misspoke." In fact, he said, he learned about the evacuees there from the first media reports more than 24 hours earlier, but the reports conflicted with information from local authorities and he had no staff on the site until Thursday.

Mr. Brown acknowledged that he had been criticized for not ordering a complete evacuation or calling in federal troops sooner. But he said, "Until you have been there, you don't realize it is the middle of a hurricane."

 

Richard Stevenson contributed reporting fromWashington for this article, andEric Lipton fromBaton Rouge, La.

    Ex-FEMA Chief Tells of Frustration and Chaos, NYT, 15.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/national/nationalspecial/15brown.html

 

 

 

 

 

In the Quarter,

Haunting Silence

and Berets That Don't Speak French

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times

By JAMES BENNET

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 14 - Backlighted by the moon, taking a meandering path down the middle of Bourbon Street around 1 a.m. Wednesday, the silhouette seemed to recall the hedonism here before Hurricane Katrina silenced the jazz, blackened the windows and closed the clubs.

But as it approached, similar shadows separated from the darkness along the sidewalks, and then the odd shapes of their heads gave them away. Berets in the French Quarter mean only one thing now - the 82nd Airborne was on patrol. The young men were finding no action, of any kind.

"I always wanted to come here, pre-days-of-Mad-Max," mused Specialist Andy Figorski, 24, of Philadelphia. "You hear all the talk of Bourbon Street - and I'm here."

Clowning, he called out into the darkness, "Where's the beads, the booze?"

In the quiet, in the dark, the French Quarter feels haunted now less by vampires than by the idea of vampires - by the trashy, kitschy exuberance of the clubs and the amiable gentility of the elegant side streets. It feels haunted by its own old spirit. The physical damage is modest and the lights may be on again shortly. Less certain is when delight will return to the heart of a city where so many have died and so many have lost their homes. Some holdouts here believe that can happen quickly, too.

On Tuesday night, a waxing moon in a cloudless sky polished the Quarter with a silvery light. The smells were of rotting garbage, rotting animals and gardenias - or was that jasmine? The silence amplified the smallest sounds - the creak of a jalousie shutter, loosened by the storm or a looter; the fall of one's own shoes on the asphalt; the click of windblown plastic medallions against the wrought-iron rail of a second-floor balcony on Burgundy Street.

Sitting alone on that balcony, William Ballenger, 42, called down that even more stars had been out in the moonless days after the storm. "It was really beautiful," he said.

Suddenly, a faint ticking noise competed with the medallions' click. It grew louder. Something was approaching, fast. Then two pit bulls burst into the glow of Mr. Ballenger's flashlight, swarming around his visitors' knees.

The dogs eagerly drank water poured from a bottle. Mr. Ballenger, a handyman, invited his visitors in for a tour of the 180-year-old, four-story house and compound he was minding for his employer, a hotelier.

"Katrina - you won for now, but not for long," reads a sign Mr. Ballenger posted outside. Passing through the courtyard, he defiantly invoked a line by the pop band Katrina and the Waves. "I'm walking on sunshine, baby," he sang out into the silent night, "and don't it feel good!"

Yet he knew how serious the storm had been. He said that his ex-wife and 19-year-old son lost their house in nearby Chalmette. Back on the balcony, in the glow of the news on his battery-powered television, he murmured, "When you see it on TV, it kind of sinks in. You have to turn it off."

Late at night, looters still work these streets, but one is more likely to encounter black-clad security men with night-vision goggles and very big guns.

"New Orleans is dark at night, and full of police," said one such man, Blake Boteler, 44, of the Dallas-based Special Response Team of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. His comrade, Jack Grabowski, 47, said in parting, "If you bump into any ice cream, give us a shout."

The few residents are hospitable as ever, and even thirstier for conversation. "Want a cold beer?" called a voice from the darkness on Monday. When a stranger approached, he found Royce Bufkin, 56, sitting on his stoop. His face was in shadow; his firm handshake revealed a thick pinky ring. A cap clattered to the brick stoop; the beer was cold as promised. Mr. Royce said he did not miss the noise, the vomit on his steps or the many calls he used to make to the police.

"It's kind of a peaceful deal out here," he said. "It's like living in the suburbs."

Dusk is the liveliest time. Servicemen and contractors are off duty but have not yet turned in for the nighttime curfew. That is when you might meet someone like Randy Stivers, 44, of Kentucky, carrying a 10-pound bag of cubed ice along Bourbon Street in quest of a drink to put it in.

"I'm looking for a bar that never closes," Mr. Stivers said. That was a reference to Johnny White's, a bar open through the storm and its aftermath.

The accidental tourists stroll Bourbon Street. They cluster for photographs outside Big Daddy's, where the owner has used a generator to electrify his trademark gimmick, a fake pair of woman's legs that bob out and in through a window, metronomically, as though the woman were riding a swing with a very short arc. "The legs are still working!" a gray-haired man in camouflage cried on Monday. "After 30 years! I thought they'd be worn out by now."

On the stoop next door, Tom Gallagher, 51, who never left the Quarter, said he had helped the owner use this lull to wash the club, a sign of optimism. The club's marquee suggests a zest for hygiene. "Wash the Girl of Your Choice," it declares, by a picture of a wet woman in the altogether. But Mr. Gallagher said, "The club is open 365 days a year, or close to it, and I don't know the last time it closed down for a cleaning."

Romance still lives here. Inez Pillotta, 54, and Barrington Nelson, 38, met when the storm hit Florida, and they reported for work with a company that cooks meals for emergency workers. Starting in Pompano Beach, Fla., their relationship grew with the storm, as the couple moved to Mississippi and then here.

"The storm brought us together and blew us from one place to another," Mr. Nelson said.

On Tuesday evening, the two strolled hand-in-hand through the French Quarter.

Switching from her native Spanish to less certain English, Ms. Pillotta explained why she found New Orleans mysterious and romantic. "The city is empty, sad," she said, recalling her first glimpse of it after the storm. "Over the Mississippi, the moon is bright on the water. And the sky very dark, the city very dark."

    In the Quarter, Haunting Silence and Berets That Don't Speak French, NYT, 15.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/national/nationalspecial/15night.html

 

 

 

 

 

Areas Isolated After Storm Make Do

 

September 15, 2005
The New York Times

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
and CAMPBELL ROBERTSON

 

BROOKLYN, Miss., Sept. 14 - Hours after the wind stopped howling but days before outsiders showed up, Amanda Williams had cooked up the 300 pounds of venison that was stored in her deep freezer, scavenged some paper plates from the store across the street and set up a table in her front yard to begin feeding this town just north of Gulfport.

Before long, a Red Cross worker sheepishly joined in on the feast of venison sausage, venison chili and venison sandwiches at the new town "restaurant." (The FEMA fliers can be found under the jar of jalapeños.)

"I said, 'You're supposed to be feeding us,' " Ms. Williams said with a chuckle.

In McComb, a 70-year-old man wobbled up a ladder to the roof of his house and tried to remove a 4,000-pound tree, to the alarm of Edward Hager, a contractor from Kentucky who finished removing the tree's stump, so heavy it snapped a wire on his crane.

Not far from the Mississippi border, the residents of Franklinton, La., used chain saws and sheer brawn to chop through the twisting, perilous pile of trees that had turned their streets into impenetrable mazes and trapped residents in their homes.

In the most far-flung hamlets throughout the devastated regions of Mississippi and Louisiana, thousands of residents neither waited for government nor lamented its absence after the hurricane. They put on their boots, pulled out their tarps and chain saws and got busy.

Isolated, experienced in working outdoors and fully equipped with the accoutrements of rural life, these people are quite accustomed to being their own sanitation, social service and utility bureaus.

"People here are used to doing for themselves," said Faye Boyd, Franklinton's town clerk. "They didn't wait for FEMA or the parish to do it for them."

Hurricane Katrina left some of these towns so cut off from the rest of the nation that they still do not even know what is happening 20 miles away. While it accentuated the area's remoteness, it also showcased its coping abilities.

"You're dealing with a different kind of person in the country," said Mr. Hager, who has been traveling throughout the two states over the last few weeks removing debris. "They're used to hard physical labor, they've used chain saws all their lives and they're not going to sit around and say, 'Oh I can't do this.' "

Franklinton, like Brooklyn and all the small towns in the southern corner where Louisiana and Mississippi meet, suffered extensive damage and loss of electricity and phone service. Because of the remoteness of these areas, officials are still trying to determine the extent of the loss of life.

In the areas north of the coastline, fallen trees wreaked the most immediate and dangerous havoc. Houses, city buildings and hospitals were enclosed by fallen branches and upturned stumps, making escape by foot, let alone car, impossible.

"So all the neighborhood husbands just got the chain saws out," said Regina Runfalo, a hospital administrator in Bogalusa, La.

In many areas, the chain saw is to the trunks of cars as the MetroCard is to the wallet of a Brooklynite. (The other Brooklynites.)

Robert McNabb, a sheriff's deputy in Magnolia, Miss., was driving in his patrol car when trees began to fall around him. After the wind stopped, he took his chain saw out and cut himself free.

"I changed my uniform and started clearing the road," he explained. "I used my tractor." I've got cows. For the most part, we like do things ourselves around here. I do hope to get reimbursed on the gas I have been using for the generators."

Franklinton's jumble of gnarled trees required a platoon of saws. "Some people were cutting one way, and some were cutting the other, and you'd meet them at the corner," said Roland Carter, whose subdivision was devastated by the gusting winds.

The chain saw brigade got some reinforcement to speed the recovery.

"My son's house had 68 trees across his drive," said Richard Knight, who owns the Ace Hardware store in Franklinton. "So the dairy farmer Rickie brought his tractor with the front-end loader over, and my son would cut the tree and then he would load them in."

Ace Hardware has made a brisk sale of generators, used to cool homes, heat showers and cook, as well as tarps for damaged roofs and electric wires to rewire appliances.

"You've heard of the FEMA blue-roof program?" asked Ms. Runfalo, referring to the federal government program of placing blue tarp on the roofs of homes that are badly damaged. "We've got our own blue-roof program right here."

In places that are extremely rural and that have many elderly residents, the do-it-yourself model is more limited, and limiting.

Anne Lambert, who lives in a shotgun house along a remote highway in the unincorporated town of Wilmer, La., has no chain saw, no backhoe or tractor. She has gone at the formidable pile of branches in her yard with rakes and pitchforks.

"Me and him picked up thems we could," said Ms. Lambert, 75, referring to her 88-year-old neighbor, Percy Gill.

The work outside can be daunting. Temperatures throughout the region have hovered well above 90 degrees most days since the storm, and the cleanup coincides with the two-week infestation of so-called love bugs - black winged things that seem to exist only to procreate and commit suicide against car windows - which are swarming all the more thanks to the storm, which blew them inland.

Things do not always go perfectly.

Buster Bickham, 53, who works for the telephone company in Franklinton, heard a neighbor calling to him from his roof.

"He was trying to put a tarp up there and he was afraid to move, because it was too steep for him, so I got the bucket truck and I went up there and got him," Mr. Bickham said.

Some other do-it-yourself approaches bumped up against the role of the authorities.

For example, E. G. Warren, a State Farm insurance agent, arrived in Gulfport with his family the Tuesday after the storm and took shelter in a trailer with his family. Late one night, he said, a person covered in blood started banging on the door.

So he asked his son's three firefighter friends who were coming to help from Georgia to bring 9-millimeter guns to Gulfport.

How many guns?

"Let me put it this way," said his son, Eric Warren, "there are enough to go around."

    Areas Isolated After Storm Make Do, NYT, 15.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/national/nationalspecial/15repair.html

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana towns rebound,

sick and aged hit hard

 

Wed Sep 14, 2005
11:20 AM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Three Louisiana towns allowed people to come home on Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck, as officials from a nursing home and a hospital defended their handling of sick and aged patients who died after the storm.

As the Gulf Coast struggled to recover from the August 29 hurricane, the death toll rose to 648 in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti filed criminal charges against the operators of a nursing home where 34 patients died after they were trapped by the storm's floodwaters.

The cities of Gretna, Westwego and Lafitte, all suburbs of New Orleans, told residents they could come back at daybreak.

"Essential services such as electricity, sewerage and water are improving daily but are still not up to standard. Commercial establishments, such as grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies are scarce but are beginning to open. Therefore, if you have the means to stay away for a longer period of time it would be advisable for you to do so," said a notice on the Web site of Jefferson Parish, where the towns are located.

Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, said the key to reopening areas for habitation and business was restoring sewage services.

Fewer than 400,000 electricity customers still lacked power 16 days after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to area utilities and the U.S. Department of Energy.

About 319,000 of the homes and businesses in Louisiana, or 29 percent, remained without power, while Mississippi had about 84,000 customers still with no service.

Foti said on Tuesday that the owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish had been arrested and charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide.

"Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home when it should have been evacuated. I cannot say it any plainer than that," Foti said.

The owners, Mable and Salvador Mangano, turned down an offer from local officials to take the patients out by bus, and did not bother to call in an ambulance service with which they had a contract, he said. They were each released on $50,000 bonds on Wednesday.

 

EVERY DEATH TO BE PROBED

Foti vowed to investigate every death at every hospital and nursing home that was not from natural causes.

James Cobb, a lawyer for the owners, said they did all they could and had told family members that they could remove the patients if they wanted.

"What people have to understand is, you're presented with a horrible choice," he said. "You take people who are on feeder tubes, who are on oxygen, who are on medications and you put them on a bus to go 70 miles in 12 hours? People are going to die, people are going to die, we know that."

In another development, the owners of a New Orleans hospital where 44 bodies were found said they were those of critically ill patients who died in stifling heat after power was cut to the flooded building but before it could be evacuated.

Tenet Healthcare Corp. said no one still alive was left behind at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans when help finally came.

"During more than four days with poor sanitation, without power, air-conditioning and running water, and with temperatures in the building approaching 110 degrees (43 C), some patients simply did not survive despite the heroic efforts of our physicians and nurses. We believe that most were very sick adult patients," the company said in a statement.

President George W. Bush, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, thanked other countries for coming to the aid of hurricane victims.

"In Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana, whole neighborhoods have been lifted from their foundations and sent crashing into the streets. A great American city is working to turn the flood waters and reclaim its future.

"To every nation, every province and every community across the world that is standing with the American people in this hour of need, I offer the thanks of my nation," he said.

Bush, who has taken responsibility for the slow federal government response to the disaster, returns to the devastated region on Thursday and will address the nation in the evening.

In New Orleans, bodies were still being recovered and many neighborhoods remained flooded by water that surged through broken levees after the storm hit.

The storm likely will be the costliest natural disaster in American history, with high-end estimates at $200 billion. The U.S. Congress has approved $62.3 billion so far for relief.

    Louisiana towns rebound, sick and aged hit hard, R, 14.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-14T151918Z_01_DIT259104_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Flu shots urged

for Katrina evacuees, elderly

 

Wed Sep 14, 2005
1:58 PM ET
By Lisa Richwine

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hurricane evacuees living in crowded shelters and people at high risk of influenza complications should get priority for flu vaccines over the next six weeks, U.S. health officials said on Wednesday.

"We know those shelters could be a place where respiratory illnesses can easily spread, and if there is any population that deserves first access to the vaccine, it's the people who have already gone through so much difficulty," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding said at a news conference.

Along with Katrina evacuees in shelters, officials are concerned about people age 65 and older or with weak immune systems, children aged six months to 23 months and pregnant women - the groups most likely to become seriously ill or die from the flu.

Government health officials and leaders of medical organizations united in calling on doctors to give flu shots only to those groups, as well as to health-care workers or others who come in contact with them, until October 24.

"We're asking those who provide influenza to give the first available doses to people in our priority groups ... Getting an influenza vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your patients against this disease," Gerberding said.

French company Sanofi-Aventis has donated 200,000 doses of flu shots for hurricane victims. The doses are on their way to health departments in areas that are housing hurricane evacuees, Gerberding said.

Others who want the vaccine can get it after October 24, officials said, as long as the supply lasts.

The CDC estimates 180 million Americans should get a flu shot every year but fewer than half that number do.

Last year, vaccine maker Chiron Corp. lost its manufacturing license because of contamination at a British plant, and half the anticipated U.S. supply was lost. Long lines formed to get vaccine and health officials scrambled to get about 60 million doses from other suppliers.

U.S. officials expect between 71 million and 97 million doses to be available for the upcoming flu season, depending on how much Chiron can provide. Flu season typically starts in December and runs through March.

Three million of the doses will be MedImmune Inc.'s Flumist nasal spray vaccine, which can be given to healthy people ages five to 49 who are not pregnant.

Influenza kills an estimated 36,000 Americans and puts 200,000 in the hospital in an average year. Because the virus constantly changes, the vaccine must be reformulated and made fresh every year in a process that takes months.

    Flu shots urged for Katrina evacuees, elderly, R, 14.9.2005,
    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-14T175707Z_01_BAU464630_RTRIDST_0_USREPORT-KATRINA-FLU-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

No pay for New Orleans teachers

 

Wed Sep 14, 2005
1:09 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - New Orleans teachers will not get paid for periods after Hurricane Katrina because there is almost no money left in the city's strapped school system, an executive of the outside firm that runs the schools said on Wednesday.

But a team of experts was set to descend on the city on Wednesday to find schools that can be reopened as soon as possible, providing the system gets emergency funding from the government to operate.

The paycheck issued this week to teachers is for the last pay period before the storm hit, said Bill Roberti, a director with the restructuring firm of Alvarez & Marsal, which runs the school system.

"This is the last payroll we will be able to issue for the time being," Roberti said in a briefing. "We were not able to move forward with the $50 million financing we were pursuing to keep the district afloat. We are very low on cash at this time."

The 7,000-employee, 116-school system was already in dire financial shape before Katrina hit, which is why the firm was pursuing the $50 million finance package.

A total of $13 million in payroll is available at Western Union branches across the country for teachers to pick up, Roberti said.

The state's schools superintendent said Tuesday he will ask Congress for $2.4 billion in aid for teacher benefits and salaries, and Alvarez & Marsal sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush as well, asking for help.

Sajan George, another managing director at Alvarez & Marsal, said the destruction Katrina caused was, in its own way, an opportunity to renew the beleaguered system.

"The rebuilding will afford a number of opportunities in not only rebuilding the physical environment but the educational environment students work in," he said. "The faster we can get back to reopening the school system the faster we can rebuild a world-class city."

    No pay for New Orleans teachers, R, 14.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-14T170847Z_01_YUE377190_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-SCHOOLS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

More U.S. companies weighing climate risks

 

Wed Sep 14, 2005 12:05 PM ET
Reuters
By Timothy Gardner

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States does not regulate global warming emissions, but many U.S. companies are beginning to prepare for greenhouse gas limits, according to a study by a coalition of institutional investors.

Over the past three years the investors group, the London-based Carbon Disclosure Project, has sent questionnaires to the world's largest companies by market capitalization, asking them to quantify the greenhouse gases they produce. It also asks them how they plan to manage their greenhouse risks.

U.S. companies, unlike their counterparts based in most other industrialized countries, are not required to cut emissions because President George W. Bush backed out of the Kyoto Protocol early in his first term. The pact went into force this year.

Scientists believe gases such as carbon dioxide, released when petroleum, coal and natural gas are burned, warm the Earth by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. Many believe global warming can raise seas by melting glaciers and strengthen weather events such as hurricanes.

Responses to CDP's questions have created the world's largest database of corporate greenhouse emissions.

This year 60 percent of more than 250 U.S. companies responded to the CDP, up from 42 percent last year. The results were revealed in New York on Wednesday.

"It's almost the embarrassment factor that companies don't want to be seen as laggards," said Chris Davis, head of climate change at Boston law firm Goodwin Procter.

"When their competitors ... have a good story to tell about how they're managing greenhouse gas emissions, I think it creates pressure to ... have a good story themselves," said Davis, who is not part of CDP, but helps clients deal with greenhouse risks.

He said CDP's questionnaire process has helped make U.S. companies take climate change and their emissions seriously.

Growing numbers of U.S. companies are beginning to shape emissions plans for many reasons. Either they have operations in other developed nations subject to carbon regulations, they are preparing for possible future state or federal U.S. regulations, or they are worried about 2012, when current Kyoto regulations could be expanded to developing countries.

Microsoft Corp. is an example of a company that has changed its answers to CDP.

Last year, Microsoft told CDP it did not then quantify its emissions because it did not operate facilities that directly contributed to greenhouse gases.

This year, Microsoft responded that it was developing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

"Great companies like Microsoft can change and they do change," said Paul Dickinson, executive director of the CDP.

GDP said General Electric Co., which is managing its emissions in part by increasing sales of environmentally friendly technologies, such as wind and solar power, and utilities Duke Energy Corp. and Exelon Corp. are some of the leaders in low-carbon technologies and solutions.

 

GIVING COMPANIES PAUSE

The institutional investors that have signed on to CDP, including the California Public Employees' Retirement System, known as CalPERS, represent $21 trillion in investment.

"I think that gives companies some pause -- that the folks that might purchase their shares think this is an important issue of corporate management and governance," said Davis.

In this year's CDP, companies said they emitted 2.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to James Cameron, chair of the project. While no such quantity is likely to soon be traded in emerging carbon emissions markets, carbon dioxide in European markets is currently valued above 20 euros a ton.

"Clearly, greenhouse gases are going to become a financial issue of increasing significance," said Cameron. He said that in the future, greenhouse gas trade could cause some shifts of wealth in companies.

Although companies are revealing more emissions, there is more work to be done, CDP said. Only 13 percent of companies that reported this year and last to CDP had recorded a reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions since last year.

Still, Stuart Eizenstat, a partner at Covington and Burling, who was Bill Clinton's chief Kyoto negotiator, said CDP progress has been steady.

"This is a classic example of what happens when the federal government creates a vacuum," he said.

Answers by companies to all three years of CDP's questions can be seen at http://www.cdproject.net .

    More U.S. companies weighing climate risks, R, 14.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2005-09-14T160448Z_01_DIT450465_RTRIDST_0_SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT-CARBON-DISCLOSURE-1-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane and Floods

Overwhelmed Hospitals

 

September 14, 2005
The New York Times

By SEWELL CHAN and GARDINER HARRIS

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 13 - Confusion and desperation permeated the New Orleans hospital system as floodwaters rose, emergency generators failed and dozens of patients died in the three chaotic days after the levees broke, doctors and other witnesses said on Tuesday.

While all of the city's major hospitals had detailed evacuation and emergency plans, officials said, none were prepared for a catastrophic flood. And each responded differently when disaster struck.

At Memorial Medical Center, where 45 bodies were discovered this week, staff members said they could do little more than try to comfort dying patients.

Frightened and exhausted nurses and doctors squeezed hand-held ventilators for patients who could not breathe. The cook reduced the daily meal ration from three to two to one. Doctors ranked patients for evacuation by helicopter, taping a number to each patient, with 3 for the sickest and 1 for the least critical.

Charity and University, two public hospitals that are part of the Louisiana State University system, did not have the money to hire helicopter companies to evacuate patients, said Don Smithburg, the system's chief executive. As a result, they were among the last to be evacuated.

The two hospitals relied almost entirely on the military and federal authorities. Charity and University managed to evacuate their 28 babies - 18 of them in intensive care - only by early Friday morning, nearly two days after the other hospitals. Twenty bodies were left behind at the two hospitals; 12 of the patients had died before the storm.

At Memorial, a private 317-bed hospital opened in 1926, "there were patients who were lying on the floor," said Dr. John J. Walsh Jr., a surgeon who stayed until the early hours of Friday, Sept. 2, when helicopters finally evacuated the last patients.

Dr. Walsh compared the scene to the railyard hospital for wounded soldiers in "Gone With the Wind," saying: "The nurses were basically standing, and giving them food or water. There were some medications we could give, but nothing like modern medicine. We were back to the 1800's."

The hospital's owner, the Tenet Healthcare Corporation, the country's second-largest hospital chain, said on Tuesday that of the 45 dead, 25 were patients in an 82-bed acute-care ward run by LifeCare Holdings, of Plano, Tex., that was full at the time of the storm. Officials at LifeCare did not respond to three telephone messages.

A Tenet spokesman, Harry Anderson, acknowledged that the failure of ventilators, dialysis machines and heart-rate monitors contributed to the deaths of patients. The hospital's generators shut down "as part of a general failure of the entire electrical system," not because of low fuel, he said. Of the 45 bodies, 8 to 11 had died before the storm.

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state's emergency medical director, said he did not fault the management for the deaths. "I don't think it's any reflection on that hospital," he said. "They did all the right things. They ultimately got their own helicopters to come in."

The suffering at the hospital played out over four anguished days. On Sunday, Aug. 28, as city officials ordered an evacuation of the city, hundreds of residents began streaming into Memorial, in the city's Uptown section. About 260 patients were there, not including the LifeCare ward. In the early hours of Monday, hospital employees awoke with relief. The wind had shattered windows and the glass walkways connecting the buildings and parking garages, and water had pooled around the complex, but there was little structural damage. Around 4:30 a.m., the main power lines to the hospital were disrupted and the backup generators kicked on. By dusk on Monday, most of the people who had taken refuge in the hospital had left. But hundreds of people stayed behind. All of them assumed they would be able to leave within a day or so.

On Tuesday morning, the hospital's chief executive, L. René Goux, called an emergency meeting. The administrators decided to evacuate the hospital and not to admit more evacuees from the neighborhood.

The telephones had died, and Mr. Goux began sending frantic e-mail messages to Tenet's headquarters in Dallas, requesting assistance. Company officials began calling the Coast Guard, the National Guard and even H. Ross Perot, the investor and former presidential candidate, who is a friend of Tenet's chief executive, Trevor Fetter.

Meanwhile, workers at Memorial managed to clear up an abandoned landing pad, on top of the Magnolia Street parking garage, for use as a heliport. They strung together extension cords from the generator to the landing pad and shined lights to guide the pilots. Getting patients to the helipad was not easy. They were passed through a three-by-three-foot hole on the second floor, which led from a maintenance room into the parking garage. From there, vehicles drove the patients up the ramp. Then they had to be unloaded and carried up three flights of steps to the landing pad.

Nothing was clear. At least two helicopters tried to land on the helipad and deliver evacuees to the hospital, which was trying to clear everyone out. Some pilots only wanted to take pregnant women, or babies.

Meanwhile, private boats started ferrying away the 1,800 residents who had taken shelter at Memorial. They were taken to dry land on St. Charles Avenue. From there, they left on foot or in buses.

Around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the generators started to fail. Lights flickered and died.

Dr. Timothy Allen, an anesthesiologist, was astonished. "We were told and we believed that our generators would last six days, and of course they died after two and one-half days, whether because they shorted out or were flooded," he said.

On Wednesday evening, the boats stopped - before everyone could be evacuated. About 115 patients were left. "We were waiting, lined up," said Mary Jo D'Amico, a longtime nurse at Memorial who evacuated on the night of Sept. 1. "We figured that once a boat came, we'd be ready to go. When nightfall came on Wednesday and we still didn't have all our patients out and the boats had stopped, we just brought them in, fed them, gave them more fluids and put them on cots so they could rest." And helicopters never arrived that night.

William P. Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University who was at Memorial until that afternoon with his wife, Debbie, an oncology nurse, said: "They didn't have enough food. One night, I remember one of the doctors saying, 'If you've eaten food today, we can't feed you tonight.' Then they passed out little tin cans of Vienna sausage."

By Thursday morning, doctors were in crisis mode. "We said we had to find a way to get these people out faster," Dr. Allen said. "We could just sense what was coming. It was so hot. We were down to one meal a day. There was no running water or sewage." At 9 a.m., six helicopters chartered by Tenet finally started arriving, carrying away wave after wave of patients and evacuees. The last living patient left that evening. For others, help had come too late.

"As people died, they were wrapped into blankets," said Dr. Glenn A. Casey, the chief anesthesiologist and one of three doctors who left on the final flight. "We didn't have body bags to put them in."

John J. Finn, president of the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans, said the chiefs of the city's 20 hospitals had realized late last year in a planning exercise that they should come up with a plan to cope with a devastating hurricane. "We were going to fix those things in our planning," he said. "We just ran out of time."

 

Sewell Chan reported from Baton Rouge for this article, and Gardiner Harris from Washington. Shaila Dewan contributed reporting fromBaton Rouge, and Jim Dwyer fromNew York.

    Hurricane and Floods Overwhelmed Hospitals, NYT, 14.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/14/national/nationalspecial/14hospitals.html

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana towns rebound,

death toll rises

 

Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:43 AM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Three Louisiana towns were set to allow residents to come home on Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck, while the mayor of New Orleans said he hoped some of the thousands driven from his city could be resettled there as early as next week.

The developments came as the death toll from the third-deadliest hurricane in U.S. history rose to 648 and criminal charges were filed against the operators of a nursing home where 34 patients died after they were trapped by the storm's floodwaters.

The cities of Gretna, Westwego and Lafitte, all suburbs of New Orleans, told residents they could come back beginning at daybreak because drinking water, electricity and sewer service had been restored.

The cities are in an area that suffered damage but not the kind of severe flooding that drove most of New Orleans' 450,000 residents out of their city.

In New Orleans bodies were still being recovered and many neighborhoods remained flooded by water that surged through broken levees after the August 29 storm hit.

"New Orleans is coming back. We are bringing its culture back, we are bringing its music back. I am tired of hearing these helicopters. I want to hear some jazz," Mayor Ray Nagin said on Tuesday.

He said he hoped thousands of residents could return, as soon as next Monday, to the French Quarter, which remained high and dry during the disaster, the central business district and two other neighborhoods.

Whether that happens, he said, will depend on tests being done on the flood residue to make sure there is no health hazard. The water mixed with gasoline, chemicals, sewage and other matter but health officials have said there is no sign so far that it led to a spread of infectious diseases.

It was obvious from the destruction in other neighborhoods that it would be months before many houses could be repaired or rebuilt.

Ashley Attaway and her family went looking on Tuesday for six homes they own in the city, most of them rental properties. One in the French Quarter was sound but another had been under water and suffered heavy damage.

 

DEVASTATING LOSSES

"It's devastating. This is the most awful experience of our lives," she said, adding that she feared the other four houses were destroyed.

In St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, raked by the storm's worst wind and walls of water, officials believe most of the town's 27,600 houses will have to be bulldozed and it may be six months before anyone can return, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

The storm likely will be the costliest natural disaster in American history, with estimates ranging from $100 billion to $200 billion. The U.S. Congress has approved $62.3 billion so far for relief.

The death toll in the storm that displaced 1 million people rose to 423 in Louisiana. Mississippi had 218 deaths and there were seven in Florida.

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti announced that the owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish had been arrested and charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide.

"Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home when it should have been evacuated. I cannot say it any plainer than that," Foti said.

The owners, Mable and Salvador Mangano, turned down an offer from local officials to take the patients out by bus, and did not bother to call in an ambulance service with which they had a contract, he said.

The victims were found in an advanced state of decomposition, Foti said, and it is presumed they drowned when the storm hit.

James Cobb, a lawyer for the owners, said they did all they could and had told family members that they could remove the patients if they wanted.

"What people have to understand is, you're presented with a horrible choice," he said. "You take people who are on feeder tubes, who are on oxygen, who are on medications and you put them on a bus to go 70 miles in 12 hours? People are going to die, people are going to die, we know that."

The nursing home tragedy had been described more than a week ago by Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, who told a national television audience how an emergency official busy fighting the flood had lost his mother.

"She called him and said, 'Are you coming, son, is somebody coming?' And he said, 'Yeah mama, somebody's coming to get ya, somebody's coming to get ya on Tuesday, somebody's coming to get ya on Wednesday' ... and she drowned Friday night," he said, breaking into tears during a September 4 interview on NBC.

 

DEATH IN STIFLING HEAT

In another development, the owners of a New Orleans hospital where 44 bodies were found said they were those of critically ill patients who died in stifling heat after power was cut to the flooded building but before it could be evacuated.

Tenet Healthcare Corp. said no one still alive was left behind at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans when help finally came.

"During more than four days with poor sanitation, without power, air-conditioning and running water, and with temperatures in the building approaching 110 degrees (43 C), some patients simply did not survive despite the heroic efforts of our physicians and nurses. We believe that most were very sick adult patients," the company said in a statement.

The Louisiana attorney general said he intended to investigate that case as well.

At the White House, President George W. Bush said he took responsibility for the federal government's failures in responding to the storm and promised to find out what went wrong.

Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown resigned on Monday. A political ally of Bush with little hands-on experience in dealing with disasters, he was widely criticized for his performance.

The White House said Bush would address the nation from Louisiana on Thursday evening. Facing heavy criticism and the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, Bush has visited the Gulf coast three times in the past two weeks, most recently touring New Orleans in a truck.

    Louisiana towns rebound, death toll rises, R, 14.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-14T064221Z_01_DIT259104_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

When government fails

Sep 13th 2005
From The Economist print edition


The pathetic official response to Katrina has shocked the world.

How will it change America?

 

ONLY those with a special pass, and under armed guard, can now go to the centre of New Orleans. The city, officials will tell you, is far more dangerous than is generally believed. But just a few people, such as scientists needing to retrieve experiments, are being allowed in.

Much of the city is a sea of filthy water. Cars, boats, trees and power-lines float on it in a tangled mass. The water stinks. On higher ground some parts remain oddly untouched, save for massive oaks lying in the road and huge plumes of smoke from various distant fires. But on every side the city is empty. The only sound is of helicopters overhead, dropping water on the fires. The only people are National Guard companies at the intersections, guns at the ready—and, on St Charles Avenue, one lone jogger, running on the streetcar tracks.

Slowly, falteringly and much too late, America began to respond this week to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Troops and supplies poured into New Orleans, even as survivors were bused away. The broken levees are being fixed, and water is even being pumped out. By the weekend less than 60% of New Orleans, rather than 80%, remained under water. Police were continuing to remove any remaining people, sometimes by force. The death toll is still unclear. Ray Nagin, New Orleans’s mayor, talked last week of 10,000 dead, though other officials now say it could be a lot fewer than that.

As relief stumbles along, the political blame-game is in top gear. George Bush and the federal government have come under fierce attack. Though a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that only 13% supposed the president should take most responsibility for the relief effort, or lack of it, both Republicans and Democrats were appalled at Mr Bush’s failure to grasp the scale of the catastrophe; shocked that his senior staff were absent, or on holiday, while thousands of Americans were stranded without food and water; and aghast at the bumbling response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is charged with coping when disasters strike. America’s enemies, from Cuba to Iran, lined up with unconcealed smirks to offer doctors and aid.

Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s political Svengali, moved into damage-control mode. Top officials, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, were packed off to visit the disaster zone. Mr Bush himself went back again to hug refugees, and said, unpromisingly, that he would launch an investigation. The White House spin-machine whirled into action, trying to shift blame to local and state officials. The federal government, claimed Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, had only a supporting role to play; it could not, he implied, do much if the locals were incompetent. That did not, however, stop the administration from unceremoniously relieving FEMA head Michael Brown of hurricane duty on Friday September 9th and packing him off to Washington while Thad Allen, a vice-admiral in the coast guard, took his place. On Monday, Mr Brown announced that he was resigning from the agency.

Local and state officials have fought their corner. Kathleen Blanco, the Democratic governor of Louisiana, refused to let the federal government take control of the National Guard relief effort in her state, fearing this would allow the Bush team to blame her for any earlier incompetence. Instead, she hired James Lee Witt, the head of FEMA in the Clinton administration, to advise her on disaster relief.

Pundits explained the government’s failure in every way they pleased. Anti-war types blamed Iraq, particularly the fact that thousands of National Guard troops had been sent there. Environmental types blamed Mr Bush’s lackadaisical attitude to wetlands. Many Democrats saw it as proof that Mr Bush and the Republicans cared nothing for America’s poor and black. Liberals argued that Katrina showed why, as James Galbraith, a vocal leftist economist at the University of Texas, put it, the “government of the United States must be big, demanding, ambitious and expensive.” A Wall Street Journal column, in contrast, argued that the hurricane showed the danger of relying too heavily on inefficient government.

The question of racism bobbed quickly to the surface. Jesse Jackson, a one-time presidential hopeful, set the tone. Inspecting the crowded pavement outside the convention centre in New Orleans, he said: “This looks like the hull of a slave ship.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When government fails        E        13.9.2005

http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=4382412

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absurd though the comparison may be, America’s racial rift has been re-opened. Almost all the desperate-looking victims on the television news are black. That partly reflects demography—New Orleans is two-thirds black. It also reflects poverty. Those who failed to leave town typically did so because they had no means of transport. Some 35% of black households lacked a car, compared with 15% of white ones.

Nonetheless, media coverage of Katrina drew furious allegations of subtle bias. Using the term “refugees” for those seeking refuge from the storm was racist, apparently, and Yahoo! News drew flak for picture captions describing a black man as “looting” and whites as “finding” goods. The agencies that supplied the pictures retorted that the captions reflected what their photographers had witnessed.

Many blacks feel that, had it been whites drowning, the federal government would have acted more swiftly to save them. An ABC poll found them 23 percentage points more likely than whites to find fault with Mr Bush’s response. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” suggested Kanye West, a rapper, during a televised appeal to raise money for the victims. His contention is hard to prove. Was the president indifferent, or merely incompetent? Some of Mr Bush’s supporters favour a third explanation: that Mayor Nagin (who is black) proved more adept at berating the federal government on the radio than at implementing the city’s emergency plan.

 

To Texas, and points north

Amid all this name-calling, there were a few odd winners. Wal-Mart, for instance, a company that is often under fire from the left for the way it treats employees, was widely praised for the efficiency and unusual generosity of its response. The firm donated $23m to the relief effort; promised jobs in other Wal-Marts for all employees dislocated by Katrina; and proved far more adept than the Feds at getting supplies quickly to where they are needed. The state of Florida, too, which is used to these things, immediately launched an impressive pre-planned relief effort that saw more than $40m in aid, together with teams of doctors and nurses, despatched to neighbouring states.

Around 1m people have been displaced by Katrina. Texas has been the destination of close to a quarter of them. Many have gone to Houston, already the fourth-biggest city in America, to camp in the Astrodome. Other Texas cities have also pitched in: San Antonio has offered temporary housing for 25,000 (as well as practice fields for New Orleans’s displaced football team). In Dallas and Austin, convention centres have become shelters.

Governor Rick Perry has been widely praised for his quick response. He has promised extra teachers for displaced schoolchildren and, with Texas’s shelters now crammed, he is co-ordinating with other states to take survivors. But the real test lies ahead. As time wears on, keeping a few hundred thousand survivors fed and clothed, not to mention pacified, is a huge challenge—especially since nobody knows when, or whether, they will go home.

 

A victim of incompetence

Race is inevitably a factor. Most of the New Orleanians seeking public shelter are poor and black. Barbara Bush, the president’s mother, earned no thanks from him for her remark that because many survivors “were underprivileged anyway”, their Astrodome quarters are “working very well for them”. Some white Texans (including many in the Republican base) will “feel that we’ve got enough minorities in Texas already,” says Richard Murray, director of the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Houston. He predicts that the early euphoria associated with aiding survivors will probably fade, and that crime will increase tensions.

Such sentiments are likely to be echoed in other states also accepting refugees. Arkansas, for example, has opened its doors to more than 70,000 of them, turning National Guard armouries into “readiness centres” and mobilising churches to take refugees into their halls. But Arkansas is itself a poor state, with little cash to spare.

States at the other end of the Mississippi river have also been preparing for an influx of Katrina victims. Minnesota has agreed to accept between 3,000 and 5,000, and will temporarily house them at a National Guard encampment in the north-west of the state. Officials say they have lined up longer-term housing for 2,000 evacuees. Wisconsin has space for 1,150 Katrina victims, and will put them up at the state fair grounds and in Milwaukee.

Ordinary citizens have also rented buses or driven down in their own cars to pick up Katrina victims. But not many refugees are willing to travel so far north. When one coach was sent down to Houston, most passengers preferred to be dropped off in Dallas. Hundreds of sympathetic families in Wisconsin and Minnesota have offered to take Katrina victims into their homes, but, as yet, few have had their offers accepted.

That may be as well. Both sides are aware of the tensions that might accrue once short-term needs are met. The refugees will overwhelmingly be black, their hosts white; evacuees will come from a place that ranks last in most measures of civic health and social cohesion, and will end up in states that rank near the top in all of those measures. No wonder the survivors would rather stay closer to home.

 

Who pays?

Any help offered also has a price. Jim Doyle, Wisconsin’s governor, is hoping that Mr Bush will extend the state of emergency from southern states to northern ones, so that they too can receive federal aid for taking in thousands of people. That may be too much to hope for.

Shortly after Katrina struck, Congress agreed to provide $10.5 billion. But with FEMA spending $500m a day on relief and recovery, it was clear that this would not last long. So, last Thursday, Congress approved an additional $51.8 billion which the White House had requested. Together, Florida’s four hurricanes in 2004 cost the federal government $14 billion, while insurers paid out much more. This time, the ratio will be reversed.

The insurance industry is in shock. Loss-adjusters still cannot get close enough to assess much of the damage; hundreds of them have fanned out across the region, trying to work their way in from the edge to the centre of the catastrophe. Latest estimates suggest that the damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure is around $100 billion, with private insurance claims as high as $35 billion. Some property owners without flood insurance (which mortgage lenders require of most people living in flood-plains) will get relief from a federal disaster-loan programme. Only about half of property owners in New Orleans hold flood coverage, and even fewer in hard-hit patches of Mississippi and Alabama.

America’s insurers have had some bruises of late: 2004 was the worst year for catastrophes on record, and this year will surpass that. Stricter underwriting means that the industry as a whole is in better shape than it was in 2001, but Katrina will hit profits. Reinsurers, the big firms that provide a safety net in major disasters, will take the brunt of the burden. For now, the majors contend they can handle the fallout from Katrina, but losses—including those for interrupted business—are mounting by the day.

The broader economic fall-out of Katrina remains uncertain. Traditionally, big hurricanes—for all their devastation—have had only a small effect on the macroeconomy. Katrina, though, may well be a different case.

Forecasters have cut their expectations for GDP for the rest of the year—the Treasury by half a percentage point, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) by slightly more. But some have raised them for 2006 as reconstruction efforts boost output. The CBO fears that, from now to the end of the year, 400,000 jobs may be lost, though employment is “likely to rebound” later. The big unknown remains fuel costs and the risk that high prices for petrol, let alone physical supply shortages, will hit consumer spending hard.

Financial markets certainly seem gloomier about the country’s growth prospects. Before Katrina hit, futures prices suggested the central bank would continue its upward march in interest rates over the next few months. Now, the markets reckon the Federal Reserve will cut this process short. But the president of the Chicago Fed has sounded a different note, emphasising the risk of higher inflation.

And the fiscal impact could end up being sizeable. Some politicians talked of spending more than $150 billion on recovery and relief. Washington’s budget boffins worry that all kinds of other requests will be attached to money for Katrina relief, such as (paradoxically) drought relief for farmers in the mid-west. Moreover, the political aftermath of the hurricane may dampen lawmakers’ already tepid enthusiasm for budget-cutting. The 2006 budget—agreed in principle but not in detail—is supposed to include $35 billion in budget cuts over next five years, including in Medicaid, the federal-state health-care programme for the poor. Politicians will be loth to do any such trimming when America’s vulnerabilities, in almost every region of social policy, have been so ruthlessly exposed.

    When government fails, E, 13.9.2005, http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=4382412

 

 

 

 

 

Owners of Nursing Home

Charged in Deaths of 34

 

September 14, 2005
The New York Times
By SHAILA DEWAN and AL BAKER

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 13 - The owners of a nursing home where 34 people died in the floodwaters that inundated the New Orleans area were charged Tuesday with multiple counts of negligent homicide, shortly after a new dispute broke out between the State of Louisiana and the federal government over the retrieval of hundreds of other bodies.

Mable B. Mangano and her husband, Salvatore A. Mangano Sr., owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in Violet, La., just east of New Orleans, turned themselves in after the charges were filed, Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. said. He said the couple had not acted on several warnings to move the residents as Hurricane Katrina approached.

"They were warned repeatedly, both by the media and by the St. Bernard Parish emergency preparation people, that the storm was coming," said Mr. Foti at a news conference here. "In effect, I think that their inactions resulted in the death of these people."

The charges represent the first major prosecution to emerge in the hurricane's aftermath.

The legal action came as the pace of recovery of the storm's other casualties increased. Louisiana authorities said the number of confirmed dead in the state increased to 423, a substantial rise from the 279 reported on Monday. Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said the number of confirmations was expected to rise each day.

But Gov. Katherine Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana said the pace of recoveries should have been much faster, and accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency of slowing the retrieval of the dead to the point where the contractor responsible for that job had threatened to pull out.

After days of news reports of bodies in the streets of New Orleans, Ms. Blanco, with palpable frustration, said the state would bypass FEMA and sign its own contract with the company, Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management.

"In recent days, I have spoken with FEMA officials and administration officials to convey my absolute frustration regarding the lack of urgency and the lack of respect involving the recovery of our people whose lives were lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina," the governor said at a news conference in Baton Rouge. "We have pleaded for contract resolution. In death, as in life, our people deserve more respect than they have received."

FEMA officials responded by saying that the recovery of bodies was a state responsibility, while the federal role was to assist state officials.

"The state has always maintained direct control over the mortuary process following this tragedy," Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who is directing FEMA's efforts in the region, said in a written statement. "We are committed to a process that treats the victims of Katrina with dignity and respect and accomplishes the mission as quickly as possible. We will work with state officials on what they believe to be the best solution for their constituents."

Kenyon officials said they have been struggling under cumbersome conditions to execute a task that gets grislier by the day. The company, which has a contract with FEMA to respond when called, arrived Sept. 1 but was not asked to begin recovering bodies until Sept. 6, said Bill Berry, a company spokesman.

The company's 100 or so workers have bunked in a funeral home in Baton Rouge, forcing them to drive four hours round-trip each day, and Kenyon officials said they had repeatedly asked for living quarters in New Orleans.

On Sunday, Kenyon officials told FEMA that they would not enter into a contract with the agency and would pull out as soon as a replacement was found, Mr. Berry said.

Mr. Berry said the company was already responding to Ms. Blanco's request that it increase its staffing even before the new contract is finalized. "We just keep moving the cots a little closer together," he said.

Mr. Berry said he did not consider it appropriate to discuss why the company did not want to continue working under FEMA. But he had high praise for the state, which reached out to Kenyon after the company notified FEMA on Sunday that it would not accept a contract.

"I can't say enough about the Louisiana state people," Mr. Berry said. "They heard our problems and they simply fixed them. It's beautiful to see a general sitting there from the National Guard saying, 'I can do that,' and it's done.

In an effort to explain why Kenyon may have walked away from a federal contract, a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security, who asked not to be identified because the department already issued an official statement, said Tuesday that the state's proposed contract was "less detailed than the plan we were negotiating," and that it included four provisions compared with nine that FEMA had wanted.

For example, the official said that the federal proposal would have required that the Kenyon employees have specialized training and use personal protective gear and have appropriate security, provisions that the federal official said were not included in the state contract.

Mr. Berry declined to respond, except to say that the company has 76 years of experience in disasters. The company was hired in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and last year's tsunami. "We will let our record speak for itself," Mr. Berry said.

Kenyon - a unit of Service Corporation International, a giant funeral company - operates worldwide and handled preservation of remains after the World Trade Center attacks and the cleanup of mass graves in Iraq under government contracts. The company, which is based in Houston, has contributed heavily to President Bush's campaigns. The chairman and founder of the company is Robert L. Waltrip, a longtime friend of the Bush family and a trustee of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

In New Orleans, anger over the slow collection of remains, which officials say has been hampered by floodwater and debris, still smoldered. Dr. Brobson Lutz, a former health director for the City of New Orleans, led an impromptu and morbid tour Tuesday that he said reflected the extent to which those who perished had been neglected.

It included a nursing home on Dauphine Street, where three bodies had stayed until Dr. Brobson had mentioned them on CNN, and the kitchen area of his own office, where he wiped at blood from the body of Michael Lala, the owner of Old N'Awlins Cookery. Mr. Lala had died from heart failure a week after the storm, but the authorities did not respond to requests to pick up the body, Dr. Brobson said, so he stored it in his office for a week until it finally was collected Tuesday morning.

"FEMA couldn't get the live people out in time and they can't get the dead people out in time," Dr. Brobson said. "They failed the living and the dead."

The residents at St. Rita's Nursing Home did not have to die, said Mr. Foti, the Louisiana attorney general, who warned that other nursing homes that failed to remove residents also faced prosecution.

Local officials had ordered a mandatory evacuation amid news reports about the approach of the storm, Mr. Foti said. Because the home was licensed as a Medicaid facility, it had an evacuation plan in place, but it did not use it, he said.

In addition to the mandatory evacuation order, officials offered to send two buses, but Mr. Foti said the Manganos declined that offer. Also, the owners had an agreement with an ambulance company, signed in April, to provide ambulances to evacuate special-needs patients, but "they were never called," Mr. Foti said.

He said at least two of the bodies could have been family members who went to the scene or people who took refuge there. He said the remains were in the process of being identified.

James A. Cobb, the lawyer for the Manganos, said his clients were not guilty of the charges, and said the Manganos were unaware a mandatory evacuation order had been issued. Mr. Cobb said that if the patients - some on feeding tubes, oxygen and in need of medication - had been put on a bus for 12 hours to evacuate, "people are going to die."

A deputy at the East Baton Rouge jail said the Manganos had posted a bond of $50,000 and were expected to be released.

 

William Yardley contributed reporting from New Orleans for this article, and Eric Lipton fromBaton Rouge, La.

    Owners of Nursing Home Charged in Deaths of 34, NYT, 14.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/14/national/nationalspecial/14storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

Homicide charges

filed in hurricane deaths

 

Tue Sep 13, 2005 10:40 PM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The toll from the third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history hit 648 on Tuesday as officials filed homicide charges against the operators of a nursing home where 34 patients died trapped by the storm's floodwaters,

In a separate Hurricane Katrina development, the owners of a hospital where 44 bodies were found said they were those of critically ill patients who died in stifling heat after power was cut to the flooded building but before it could be evacuated.

Owners Tenet Healthcare Corp. said no one still alive was left behind at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans when help finally came.

At the White House, President George W. Bush took responsibility for the federal government's failures in handling the grim aftermath of the August 29 storm that displaced a million people, and he promised to find out what went wrong.

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti announced that the owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish just east of New Orleans had been arrested and charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide.

"Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home when it should have been evacuated. I cannot say it any plainer than that," Foti said.

The owners, Mable and Salvador Mangano, turned down an offer from local officials to take the patients out by bus, and did not bother to call in an ambulance service with which they had a contract, he said.

The victims were found in an advanced state of decomposition, Foti said, and it is presumed they drowned when the storm hit.

But James Cobb, a lawyer for the owners, said they did all they could and had told family members that they could remove the patients if they wanted.

 

A HORRIBLE CHOICE

"What people have to understand is, you're presented with a horrible choice," he said. "You take people who are on feeder tubes, who are on oxygen, who are on medications and you put them on a bus to go 70 miles in 12 hours? People are going to die, people are going to die, we know that."

The nursing home tragedy had been described more than a week ago by Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, who told a national television audience how an emergency official busy fighting the flood had lost his mother.

"She called him and said 'are you coming, son, is somebody coming?' And he said 'yeah mama, somebody's coming to get ya, somebody's coming to get ya on Tuesday, somebody's coming to get ya on Wednesday ... and she drowned Friday night," he said breaking into tears during a September 4 interview on NBC.

The Louisiana attorney general said he planned to investigate the 44 deaths at Memorial Medical Center as well, even as Tenant Healthcare said the patients died awaiting rescue.

"During more than four days with poor sanitation, without power, air-conditioning and running water, and with temperatures in the building approaching 110 degrees (43.3 C), some patients simply did not survive despite the heroic efforts of our physicians and nurses. We believe that most were very sick adult patients," the company said in a statement.

Louisiana officials said the state's death toll from the storm had risen to 423, up from 279 the day before. Mississippi had 218 deaths and there were seven in Florida.

Bush for the first time took personal responsibility for the federal government's slow response to the emergency, which stranded tens of thousands of people in New Orleans, once home to 450,000.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said. "I want to know what went right and what went wrong.

"Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm? That's a very important question and it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on so we can better respond," he said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown resigned on Monday. A political ally of Bush with little hands-on experience in dealing with disasters, he was widely criticized for his performance.

 

BUSH TO SPEAK

The White House said Bush would address the nation from Louisiana on Thursday evening. Facing heavy criticism and the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, Bush has visited the Gulf coast three times in the past two weeks, most recently touring New Orleans in a flatbed truck.

In the latest sign of tension between the administration and the state of Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco criticized FEMA for moving too slowly to recover the dead and said she had hired a company to do the job.

FEMA spokesman David Passey said it had always been understood that Louisiana would take the lead in the collection of bodies.

The storm will likely be the costliest natural disaster in American history, with estimates ranging from $100 billion to $200 billion. The U.S. Congress has approved $62.3 billion so far for relief.

Total housing, commercial and public property losses by Katrina total about $100 billion, the National Association of Realtors said in its monthly economic forecast.

The group said the hurricane would have long-term consequences for the housing market and economy, boosting both home prices and construction costs.

The Army Corps of Engineers set October 8 as its target date to have flood waters removed.

"We're not really saying 'dry,' we're saying 'dewatered,"' said Dana Finney, a Corps spokesman. That meant the city would be dry enough for engineers to begin working on infrastructure, even if some pockets of water remained.

    Homicide charges filed in hurricane deaths, R, 13.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-14T023930Z_01_DIT259104_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Three New Orleans suburbs

to reopen Wednesday

 

Tue Sep 13, 2005 8:00 PM ET
Reuters

 

GRETNA, Louisiana (Reuters) - Three suburbs of New Orleans announced they will reopen on Wednesday, saying residents have safe water, electricity and sewer service 15 days after Katrina struck.

The cities of Gretna, Westwego and Lafitte, Louisiana, said residents could come back starting at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning but cautioned that they would face a strict curfew

"The city now is open for business," Westwego mayor Robert Billiot told WWL radio. "We are going to rebuild Westwego. We look forward to you coming home."

The three cities are all in Jefferson Parish, a county of suburbs that borders New Orleans on both sides of the Mississippi River. They are on the south side of the river, the so-called West Bank, and did not suffer the widespread, continued flooding that other areas have.

On Tuesday Gretna was still mostly deserted, with a few working traffic lights, some gas stations in operation and streets full of empty damaged homes and businesses.

A steady stream of electricity repair trucks from other states, National Guard and Army vehicles paraded up and down the main highways, but there was little other traffic.

"The stores are not open yet but we are distributing food from the town hall," Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner told the radio station in a live announcement moderated by another local politician, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.

"We are close to picking up all the debris."

Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris said residents could look forward to near-full city services.

"We have lifted the boiled water alert," he told the radio station. "Debris pick-up will begin from our private contractor."

Most residents have not been back to their homes since they fled Katrina, expecting to be gone only a few days.

In neighboring Plaquemines Parish, officials said residents of flooded areas could return on Wednesday to inspect their homes, or what was left of them, and retrieve items.

Further south in Plaquemines Parish people have been back for several days the drier upper areas. Piles of trash and debris lined the main highway lined with both luxury houses and modest trailer homes.

In front of nearly every home was a taped-up refrigerator. After a week without power and with daily temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius), rotten food had ruined the appliances.

    Three New Orleans suburbs to reopen Wednesday, R, 13.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-13T235936Z_01_FLE386392_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-SUBURBS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Speed of Katrina body recovery criticized

 

Tue Sep 13, 2005 5:23 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE (Reuters) - Louisiana's governor condemned the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday for moving too slowly to recover the dead from New Orleans and said she has signed a contract directly on behalf of the state with the recovery company originally hired by FEMA.

"I have taken action today to resolve a matter that involves life, death and dignity," Gov. Kathleen Blanco told reporters, adding she expressed her "absolute frustration" with the pace of the recovery to federal authorities to no avail.

"I cannot stand by while this vital operation is not being handled appropriately," she said.

Authorities have confirmed 423 deaths in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina hit two weeks ago, though fears have begun to abate that New Orleans alone could hold 10,000 dead or more beneath its floodwaters.

Blanco said she signed a contract with Kenyon International Emergency Services after the company threatened to pull out of the state for lack of a formal contract with anyone.

Asked about the issue, FEMA spokesman David Passey said, "From what I understand, Kenyon had some questions about the contract."

He said FEMA had expected Louisiana from the beginning to take the lead in the collection of bodies and FEMA was satisfied that the state had signed a contract with the company.

"I don't know the exact nature of the contract concerns. We made our best effort to engage Kenyon in a contract," he said. The fact that the state had signed a contract with Kenyon would allow federal mortuary teams to "get on with what they do best," the identification of the dead.

Blanco said FEMA's failure to sign a contract with Kenyon had slowed the entire recovery process. She spoke ahead of a meeting with a group of the state's elected officials, including the secretary of state and attorney general.

"The failure to execute a contract for recovery of our citizens has slowed the recovery operations," she said. "We are at the epicenter of a natural disaster of global proportions."

The governor did not give details of the financial arrangements of the state's contract with Kenyon. Representatives of the company declined to comment.

Kenyon said on September 7 it had been hired by FEMA for recovery services. Passey told reporters after a regular FEMA briefing that the two sides had only a verbal agreement and that Kenyon had rejected a written contract offer.

But he added that the state's contract with Kenyon would be eligible for reimbursement under a program to assist disaster-hit states with infrastructure recovery efforts.

FEMA has become the target of strong criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the nation's worst natural disaster, which killed hundreds and displaced 1 million people on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

FEMA director Michael Brown, whose work was initially praised by President George W. Bush, resigned on Monday.

Bush himself took responsibility on Tuesday for failures in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and acknowledged the storm exposed serious deficiencies at all levels of government four years after the September 11 attacks.

    Speed of Katrina body recovery criticized, R, 13.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-13T212233Z_01_DIT367598_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DEAD-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina spills into Senate's Iraq war debate

 

Tue Sep 13, 2005
5:38 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate opponents of the Iraq war on Tuesday called Hurricane Katrina a wake-up call to withdraw troops and focus on domestic needs, lawmakers of both parties acknowledged the relief effort will make it tougher for President George W. Bush to maintain support for the war.

"The degree of difficulty has been exponentially increased by Katrina," said Joseph Biden of Delaware, top Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrat.

"The administration has got to get its act together," Biden said. "Don't give me this amorphous malarkey about we'll stay there until the job is done," he said, but instead Bush must set targets for training Iraqi troops to replace U.S. forces.

Said Sen. John McCain: "Clearly this nation is capable of handling both expenses associated with Katrina and the Iraq war, but there's no doubt that Katrina is having a negative effect on support for the war." The Arizona Republican is a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led Iraq invasion.

One of the Senate's fiercest Iraq war opponents, West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, said in a floor speech the federal government's faltering response to the Gulf Coast's devastation from Katrina showed that the Iraq war has drained needed resources at home.

"The sound of Katrina's bugle must be heeded," Byrd said. "We cannot continue to commit billions in Iraq when our own people are so much in need, not only now, in New Orleans, but all across America for everything from education to health care to homeland security to securing our own borders."

He said Iraq invasion "was never supposed to be an open-ended peacekeeping mission, with our troops mired amid the chaos of continuing warfare."

Byrd spoke as Bush met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Washington and pledged to "stand with the Iraqi people as they move forward with the Democratic process."

 

MASSIVE TAX CUTS, SPENDING

A number of lawmakers questioned how the nation could afford the massive Gulf Coast relief effort -- with $62 billion federal dollars already committed and tens of billions more expected -- along with the Iraq war that has cost close to $300 billion so far.

"It's the combination of massive tax cuts combined with massive spending on Iraq and Katrina when we already weren't able to pay our bills," said Kent Conrad of North Dakota, top Senate Budget Committee Democrat. "The fiscal implications of it all are becoming more acute," he said.

Byrd and others said Katrina also raised questions on whether the National Guard's ability to respond was curtailed by the drain of its forces and equipment to Iraq.

"Katrina's dramatizing the way in which our troops have been overstretched, overused and the need to find some way to reduce their presence in Iraq," said Carl Levin of Michigan, top Senate Armed Services Committee Democrat.

In Louisiana on Monday, Bush said, "We've got plenty of troops to do both ... It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn't enough troops here."

Despite the pressures of Katrina, several lawmakers said Bush must maintain support for the Iraq operation because the United States has too much to lose if he fails.

"We've put our treasure and our moral authority and the lives of our soldiers to this effort," said Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions. "A lot of Americans wish we'd never been there and it hadn't cost so much ... but that's not the question."

If Bush fails, Biden said Americans will be left with a "Hobson's choice" of continuing to commit U.S. lives and money to an unsuccessful strategy, or pulling troops out and leaving Iraq in a civil war and as a hotbed of terrorism.

    Katrina spills into Senate's Iraq war debate, R, 13.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2005-09-13T213710Z_01_DIT246131_RTRIDST_0_INTERNATIONAL-IRAQ-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina may change

face of insurance: GE exec

 

Tue Sep 13, 2005 11:58 AM ET
Reuters
By Simon Challis

 

MONTE CARLO (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina could change the face of the insurance industry, a senior industry executive said on Tuesday.

"Katrina is a big loss and will probably be a market-changing event," said Ron Pressman, Chief Executive of GE Insurance Solutions, the insurance unit of the giant General Electric Co..

Katrina could have the same transforming impact on insurers and reinsurers as the World Trade Center attacks, Pressman said. "I think the impact of Katrina could be on the same level as 9/11," he said.

"9/11 was an industry-changing event, as it focused the industry's and arguably the world's attention on the impact that terrorism could have and exactly how much damage could be done," Pressman told Reuters on the fringes of an industry presentation in Monte Carlo.

"It also focused attention on the poor underwriting that occurred in the late 1990s and what needed to be done to change that."

Asked whether premium rates needed to go up in the wake of the hurricane, which slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast wreaking massive damage, Pressman said the reinsurance industry's record of delivering single-digit returns "is simply not acceptable."

He said, "the results show a self-evident need to tackle the underlying technical underwriting to address that."

Pressman said his company would probably issue an estimate of its claims for Katrina in mid-October. It is basing its assumptions on an insured loss estimate toward the upper end of experts' assessments.

"We are looking at this event in the range of $40 billion to $50 billion," Pressman said.

The impact of Katrina on the pricing environment in the marine energy market -- where onshore and offshore oil and gas installations are insured -- could be relatively short-lived, however, said Alistair Lockhart-Smith, a partner in the reinsurance unit of broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson.

This particular market will be one of the hardest hit in terms of claims, meaning cover in the Gulf of Mexico may be harder to find and is likely to be more expensive, he said.

But it is unclear whether the glut of capacity that has pushed the cost of cover for marine energy risks downwards in recent years will either be entirely soaked up by claims from Katrina or scared away by the disaster, Lockhart-Smith said.

"While reinsurers are talking a very hard game (on prices), they have also said the losses from Katrina are containable and may only hit their earnings, rather than their capital. In which case the hard market effect (when prices are pushed upwards) may be fairly short-lived," said Lockhart-Smith.

Reinsurers and insurers are gathered in the Mediterranean resort to begin discussion of the cost of annual risk cover for next year.

    Katrina may change face of insurance: GE exec, R, 13.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=reutersEdge&storyID=2005-09-13T155741Z_01_HO340652_RTRIDST_0_PICKS-INSURANCE-GE-2-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Takes Responsibility for Failures

in Storm Response

 

September 13, 2005
The New York Times

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush said Tuesday that "I take responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and said the disaster raised broader questions about the government's ability to respond to natural disasters as well as terror attacks.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.

"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.

The president was asked whether people should be worried about the government's ability to handle another terrorist attack given failures in responding to Katrina.

"Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That's a very important question and it's in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond," Bush replied.

He said he wanted to know both what went wrong and what went right.

As for blunders in the federal response, "I'm not going to defend the process going in," Bush said. "I am going to defend the people saving lives."

He praised relief workers at all levels. "I want people in America to understand how hard people worked to save lives down there," he said.

Bush spoke after R. David Paulison, the new acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, pledged to intensify efforts to find more permanent housing for the tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors now in shelters.

It was the closest Bush has come to publicly finding fault with any federal officials involved in the hurricane response, which has been widely criticized as disjointed and slow. Some federal officials have sought to fault state and local officials for being unprepared to cope with the disaster.

Bush planned to address the nation Thursday evening from Louisiana, where he will be monitoring recovery efforts, the White House announced earlier Tuesday.

Paulison, in his first public comments since taking the job on Monday, told reporters: "We're going to get those people out of the shelters, and we're going to move and get them the help they need."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff introduced Paulison as the Bush administration tried to deflect criticism for the sluggi